How Air force One Got Its Distinctive Look

A modern VC-25B (747) as Air Force One (Photo: Elizabeth Slater/ U. S. Air Force)

As the media has paid recent attention to Air Force One, I thought I would take a few moments to discuss how this aircraft got its iconic livery and became a symbol of the president and the nation. Air Force One is an integral part of American state ceremony. It ferries the president to locations beyond Washington and takes him on foreign visits. The image of the president waving on the steps of the aircraft when he arrives or departs has become so iconic it has almost become obligatory. Often on foreign visits, an honor guard is found at the steps of the aircraft and dignitaries lined up to greet the president. Many would be surprised to find that the aircraft that transports the President was not always blue and white, in fact, it was once orange! Presidents Roosevelt and Truman flew in various propeller-driven aircraft and it wasn’t until the end of President Eisenhower’s first term that a set of jet-powered Boeing 707s were delivered to the U.S. Air Force. Like all VIP aircraft in the fleet, they were painted in a high visibility orange with the words “Military Air Transport Service” written on the side. There was really nothing indicating the importance of their mission or the person they carried. Continue reading