While a ‘revamped’ livery design for the USAF’s next fleet of ‘Air Force One’ aircraft – which will comprise two Boeing VC-25Bs – was announced by former US President Donald J Trump in June 2019, the incumbent President Joe Biden has selected a new scheme, which closely mirrors the one applied to the current VC-25A fleet, aside from a few key differences.
Biden’s selection of the new paint scheme was announced by the USAF on March 10 and continues the traditional mix of light blue and white colours that have been worn by the ‘Air Force One’ fleet for decades. While very similar to the livery currently worn by the VC-25A fleet – which comprises two extremely modified Boeing 747-200Bs (serials 82-8000 and 92-9000) – the scheme that will be applied to the new Boeing 747-8i-based VC-25Bs does feature some subtle differences.
Highlighting the differences between the scheme applied to the VC-25A fleet with the one that will eventually be sported by the new VC-25Bs, the USAF said: “While accounting for the VC-25B’s larger airframe, the VC-25B livery has three primary differences with the VC-25A’s livery. The light blue on VC-25B is a slightly deeper, more modern tone than VC-25A’s robin’s egg blue. Additionally, the VC-25B engines will use a darker blue from the cockpit area vice the VC-25A’s robin’s egg blue. Finally, there is no polished metal section on the VC-25B because modern commercial aircraft skin alloys don’t allow for it.”
Although President Trump unveiled the ‘revamped’ red, white and blue scheme for the new VC-25B fleet in June 2019, a formal contractual decision on the livery of the next ‘Air Force One’ fleet was not required for Boeing to conduct engineering, certification preparation and supplier selection activities until this year. While the red, white and blue livery was initially selected because it had been publicly expressed as a preferred scheme for the ‘Air Force One’ fleet, it proved to be problematic as a thermal study concluded that the dark blue colours used in the design would “require additional Federal Aviation Administration qualification testing for several commercial components due to the added heat in certain environments,” the USAF added.
The first VC-25B is due to be delivered to the USAF in 2027, followed by the second in 2028. These aircraft will replace the current VC-25As operated by the 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Having replaced the Boeing 707-based VC-137 fleet in the presidential transport role in August 1990, the VC-25A fleet is coming to the end of its viable service life and faces rising maintenance costs, parts obsolescence and capability gaps. The new VC-25Bs will come fitted with a host of modifications, including a mission communication system, medical facility, executive interior and a self-defence system, along with electrical power upgrades and autonomous ground operations capabilities.