Recently my Editor was in Washington, D.C. conducting business and took some additional time to visit some of our most significant national treasures, such as the Lincoln Memorial, Air and Space Museum, and The White House. It was near the latter that she spotted a wonderful book titled "AIR FORCE ONE – The aircraft that shaped the modern Presidency" by Von Hardesty with a Foreword by CBS Face The Nation host Bob Schieffer.
This is a wonderful soft-cover book, oddly shaped (9 ¼ by 9 ¾), and carries the story from the first flight by President Teddy Roosevelt with one of the Wright Brothers through President George W. Bush’s presidency on today’s Air Force One. To say the book is amazing is an understatement and every American should be interested in the facts and figures presented within its covers.
Hopefully you can find a copy of this book at your local bookstore or local library, because it is well worth your time and effort to be informed about this unique part of the government of the United States.
There is a special feature presented, which unfortunately I cannot copy for inclusion here because it is spread over two adjoining pages. When our President travels overseas on official business aboard Air Force One it takes a massive number of airplanes and personnel to support, serve, and protect our President. While I knew each flight outside the country was a significant undertaking, I did not fully understand the scope and expense involved. Here are the details represented on pages #156 and #157 of the book.
Every time Air Force One departs for an overseas trip the journey is supported with the following equipment and personnel:
Two VC-25 (747 aircraft) - one for the President and one backup aircraft - there are 8 crew members, 17 support personnel, 20 security personnel, 30 presidential staffers, 13 journalists, and one physician on the President’s plane and the backup plane has a crew of 8 and 6 support personnel.
One #747 Press Plane carrying approximately 156 people – Crew, Support, and Press.
Three #C-17 Cargo Planes with support personnel. One carries a crew of 4 and approximately 53 security personnel, the second carries a crew of three, and the third carries another three crew members.
Two #C-5 Cargo Planes with support personnel. One with a crew of 6 and 50 security personnel; the second has a crew of three.
One E-4 Operations plane –Flying Command Plane – with a crew of 61.
Three KC-10 Tanker Refueling planes- with a crew of 4 each.
Three KC-135 Tanker Refueling plane- with a crew of 4 each.
Three VH-10 Helicopters with a crew of 4 each.
Four Limousines and six or more SUV’s.
That represents approximately 475 people on 18 aircraft with four limousines and six SUV’s, and we have not considered the cost of the jet fuel, food, and expense of the personnel all in support of one president traveling to some site outside of the country for official government purposes. It is impossible to even estimate the cost of each trip and I suspect that it is impossible to accurately separate expenses accurately between what is appropriate to charge the government and a specific political party.
It is your Commander’s guesstimate that we are talking well over a hundred million each time the President travels overseas and millions when he flies to Indiana or Montana to meet with workers in an auto factory or western ranches.
Can you imagine the impact of the sight of Air Force One has on arriving in some Third World Country with this entourage? The arrogant ugly Americans arrive to save mankind.
It is your Commander’s strong suggestion that presidents give some serious thought to reducing the number of flights he/she commits on behalf of their Presidency for the economic benefit of the American taxpayer. I agree that it is necessary to attend some of these meeting in foreign lands and I totally understand the importance of extensive security for our President, but equally there must be some additional consideration to the expense of these ventures.
Domestic trips do not require as many planes, personnel, etc., however, they are not cheap either. Just after addressing the nation about the need to share the pain in resolving our budget woes, Obama went off again on Air Force One to Chicago for a political rally and major fund raising gathering. One wonders who is watching how the cost of such travel is accounted. I bet the good old American taxpayer is charged, but we will never know the real answer to my concern.
Would it not be prudent for our President to stay in the White House, and work a full five or six days per week as the average hard working American is required to do? The president can always slip away to Camp David, which is not shabby, and save us a ton of money. Your Commander asks the question…What would our Founding Fathers think of the frequency of air travel by Barack Obama, and the costs attributable to today’s American President?