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Air Force One is one of the most identifiable symbols of the American Presidency. Although Air Force One is the call sign of any Air Force aircraft carrying the President of the United States, it has become standard practice to refer to the highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft, carrying the tail codes 28000 and 29000, as Air Force One.
This aircraft is often referred to as the flying White House. It is equipped with state-of-the-art communications equipment, anti-missile defenses, and furnishings befitting the President. This allows the President and his staff to conduct government business from the air while being protected from attack. The plane is capable of mid-air refueling that can keep the President in the air for long periods of time and allow him to travel anywhere in the world.
During his eight years in office, President George W. Bush logged 1,675 flights on Air Force One. He visited every state in the country, except Vermont. He also visited 75 countries during 49 foreign trips.
Two Memorable Flights
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush traveled to Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where he received news that two planes had flown into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. President Bush was rushed back to the airport where he flew to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. While enroute from Florida to Louisiana, the pilots were told there was a plane approaching. Fearing the unknown plane was hijacked, Air Force One altered its course; but ultimately, decided to continue on to Barksdale. (The second plane turned out to be harmless.) The President went from Barksdale Air Force Base to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska; however, he insisted on returning home to the White House, where he addressed the nation from the Oval Office. Many of the important decisions made that day were made on board Air Force One.
On Thanksgiving Day 2003, President Bush was scheduled to celebrate the holiday quietly on his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Weeks earlier, however, he had asked his staff to begin making plans for a trip to Iraq at the suggestion of White House Chief of Staff Andy Card. The President and his National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, secretly flew on Air Force One from Texas to Andrews Air Force Base, where they picked up aides, military and Secret Service personnel, a few reporters, and changed to a twin version of Air Force One. With its lights darkened and window shades drawn, Air Force One landed under a crescent moon at Baghdad International Airport using a corkscrew pattern to reduce the chances of being shot. Just six days before, a plane had been shot out of the sky at the same airport. President Bush spent two and a half hours in Iraq visiting with the troops and other dignitaries. Take-off from Baghdad International Airport was just as dangerous. Everyone on the plane was told to keep the lights out and maintain telephone silence. Once Air Force One had climbed to a safe altitude, reporters on board were free to file reports about the trip.