Air Force One (Both of Them) in Shop

Photograph by SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Air Force One, with U.S. President Barack Obama aboard, taxis on the tarmac at a U.S. military airbase in Osan, South Korea.

Sometimes even Air Force One has to go into the shop.

Both of them.

At the same time.

Reporters en route to Michigan with President Barack Obama were asking why they were flying a smaller aircraft, one modeled on a Boeing 757, rather than the  747 jumbo-jets that normally serve as Air Force One.

“It was faster than driving to Ann Arbor,” deputy press secretary Josh Earnest explained to some laughter.

In all earnest, he said, the big bird, known in military parlance as VC-25, was “undergoing some routine maintenance.” Thus the smaller C-32, normally pressed into service for short runways at smaller venues along the president’s travels, was flying.

So how long does routine maintenance take?

“Not long,” Earnest said.

Same answer he’d given two weeks ago?

“It was.”

“They took the VC-25 to Europe and to Saudi Arabia and back,” Earnest said of last week’s run to Holland, Belgium and Riyadh, “so there was some additional maintenance that needed to be done this week. We’re hopeful that the VC-25 will be back in service next week.”

But, wait, don’t they have two of the big planes?

(One is used for domestic travel, though the White House typically flies both jumbo VC-25’s when the president travels abroad, and whichever jet carries the president always is known as Air Force One at the time.)

“There are two,” Earnest said. “One of them is in a longer maintenance rotation. So the one that we have been using recently and the one that the president traveled on when he traveled to Europe and Saudi Arabia is just in for shorter-term routine maintenance.”

“It is our hope that that maintenance will be completed in time for any travel that may be on the horizon next week,” he said — “Actually, you already know the travel that’s on the horizon for next week. The president is traveling to Texas.”

So long as the big birds are ready for the president’s planned trip to Asia, the traveling press replied, in a burst of self-interest.

“You don’t want to travel across the Pacific Ocean in this plane?” Earnest said. “I see.”




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