How Air Force One Works

Air Force One Floor Plan

Air Force One has a certain mythic, mysterious quality, largely because it is completely off limits to most of us. Even visiting politicians and journalists aren't allowed in some parts of the plane, and the Air Force is careful to conceal specific details of the craft's layout. A number of official and unofficial sources have published general descriptions of what's inside the plane, but nobody (as far as we know) has said for sure how these pieces fit together. And if they did, they'd probably get a polite request to stop it for reasons of national security.

Here's what we know: Like an ordinary Boeing 747, Air Force One has three decks. And, as you can see on TV footage of Air Force One, passengers can enter through three doors. Normally, when you see the president in the news getting on and off Air Force One with a wave, he is using the door onto the middle deck and a rolling staircase has been pulled up to the plane. Journalists normally enter through the rear door, where they immediately climb a staircase to the middle deck. Most of the press area looks something like the first class section of an ordinary jetliner, with comfortable, spaced-out seats.


Logically, it also has:

  • A staff area
  • A galley
  • A conference and dining room
  • The president's suite and office
  • Space for the service crew to ride and sleep

And, of course, it has a communications room, lounge and cockpit, like a typical commercial airplane.

Along with its unconventional passenger space, Air Force One has a lot of technology that sets it apart from a normal jetliner. In the next section, we'll find out about these special modifications.