The New Air Force One: Flying Fortress – a Preview

Air Force One lands at Joint Base Andrews – Photo: National Geographic/Renegade Pictures

Recently, I had the opportunity to have a sneak peek at the upcoming National Geographic documentary on the new Boeing 747-8i planes that are being heavily converted to take on the role of Air Force One. While the current planes, based upon the 747-200, are maintained impeccably, they’re getting long in the tooth at over 30 years old.

This behind-the-scenes look was pure AvGeek gold, but also appeals to all audiences. My nine-year-old daughter thought it was great (and told me to say so in this review)!

You have to love the extended upper deck of the 747-8 Intercontinental.
You have to love the extended upper deck of the 747-8 Intercontinental – the new AF1 will have a lot more floorspace to work with.

The documentary provides some of the history of the current VC-25A planes, while ushering you through the background on the development of the new VC-25B jumbos. The two 747-8s that are being converted were originally built for now-bankrupt Russian airline Transaero, but the carrier never took delivery.

As an added layer of aviation goodness, the executive producer of the documentary is an A350 pilot Scott Bateman, who also flew the 747. Many readers will be familiar with him, as he’s an active presence on Twitter as @scottiebateman.

A large portion of the show is filmed on board the current Air Force One while in flight. There are a handful of interview snippets with former president Trump where he boasts of all the secret military technology on the plane that he can’t tell us about. The other big chunk of the footage comes from Boeing’s facility in San Antonio, Texas, where the two 747-8s are being outfitted in a giant single hangar. The scope of the work taking place on this planes is overwhelming (and can explain why this is a $5B program).

Trump livery on Air Force One
VC-25B livery proposed under President Trump – Image: Boeing

The show also addresses one of the most controversial aspects of the new Air Force One – the livery! President Trump intended to paint the new planes in a new scheme, abandoning the familiar baby blue and white livery that is known around the world, and has adorned the president’s plane since the Kennedy era. However, right now, the planes are literally a blank canvas (they’re white tails) and the eventual decision will fall to the Biden administration.

This documentary is well worth an hour of your time. Heck, I watched it twice this week.

The New Air Force One: Flying Fortress debuts on Monday, February 15th at 10:00pm on National Geographic.

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