Air Force One about to land at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Air Force One has been an iconic aircraft since before I was born (not caring who was onboard, of course). Yes, I know that any aircraft carrying the U.S. President is called Air Force One, but I am talking about the two VC-25As – built off the Boeing 747-200 – that typically fly the president around the world. Those two planes (registration SAM 28000 and SAM 29000) not only represent the office of the president, but also our entire nation. In some ways, it says who we are as a people and how we want other nations to see us. Our country is also in the process of upgrading Air Force One to a pair of Boeing 747-8 Intercontinentals, called the VC-25B. You can probably look up dates when they might be finished, but I am willing to bet that the aircraft will be delayed.
I have also always been interested in the types of aircraft that other world leaders use for official duties around the world. Does it say something about their people? Their economies? Embargoes? Or what they might find cool and interesting? In this story I wanted to share in photos some of those aircraft. I am for sure not going to hit everyone, just those that I find the most interesting. Some leaders have an entire fleet of aircraft, while others might lease commercial aircraft from other countries to act as their state planes. The lines can often get blurred, but there are some interesting ones out there! I am not trying to make any political statements on why one state might run a fleet of wide-bodies, while another has a Cessna 152.
A C-32, based on the Boeing 757 – Photo: Jacob Pfleger
As you are looking through them… think about which aircraft you would want if you were a world leader. Sure, the Boeing 747 or Airbus A380 might seem like an easy choice for those who want to show off a bit, but not all airports can handle those big gals… hence why the U.S. has quite the fleet, including Boeing 757s (aka C-32), 737s (aka C-40), and many other aircraft at their disposal. Here we go!
ALGERIA: Algeria has a few planes that they use, but the ultra-long-range Airbus A340-500 is the pride of the fleet. Flying under the Algerian Air Force titles, this A345 is registered as 7T-VPP. – Photo: Jan Kertzscher | GFDL 1.2
ARGENTINA: Almost any livery looks good on a 757 and I think Argentina’s looks amazing. Unfortunately this bird doesn’t fly for the country anymore — but a 737-500 does. – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
AUSTRALIA: Okay, not currently, but I thought this classic Royal Australian Air Force Boeing 707, seen in 1979, looked too good not to share – Photo: Steve Fitzgerald | GFDL 1.2
The RAAF Boeing 737-700 BBJ gets the job done, but is not as beautiful as the 707 – Photo Ev Brown | FlickrCC
BAHRAIN: The Kingdom of Bahrain is one of those that have plenty of planes to choose from when someone in the Royal Family is looking to take a trip. And really, the fleet sounds like an AvGeek dream: Boeing 747SP, 747-8I, 727, and smaller planes that aren’t as exciting (you know, like the Gulfstream IV, G540, G550, and G650).
The Kingdom of Bahrain Boeing 747SP – Photo: Frans Zwart | FlickrCC
The Kingdom of Bahrain Boeing 727-200 – Photo: Aero Icarus | FlickrCC
The Kingdom of Bahrain Boeing 747-400 BBJ – Photo: LFSB Planes Pictures | Flickr CC
BELARUS: Althought Belarus also uses Boeing BBJ and a 767-300ER for government business, they are still rocking a Tupolev Tu-154M, which is cool for any AvGeek – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
BRUNEI: The Sultan of Brunei has always had an impressive fleet of aircraft. Here is his Boeing 747-400, but he has now upgraded to 747-8 BBJ, with the same livery. – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
His Majesty used to fly the A340-200, which has a livery that most closely matches their nation’s airline. The registration (V8-BKH) is now used on the 747-8 BBJ – Photo: John Taggart | FlickrCC
BRUKINA FASO: The West African country of Brukina Faso uses a Boeing 727-200 for short-haul flights and rents out other aircraft for longer flights – Photo: LFSB Planes Pictures | FlickrCC
CANADA: Oh Canada! What a great fleet you got there, aircraft for diverse needs. They operate five CC-150 Polaris aircraft, based off the Airbus A310-300. Well, “operate” when they work — those are classic birds.
CHAD: Chad has operated a number of different aircraft, including an MD-87, 737 BBJ, and this 767 for a short time – Photo: James | Flickr CC
CHILE: Chilean VIP 737-500 transport, which has a very official looking livery. This is only used for short-haul, where the aircraft below for longer. – Photo: YSSYguy | GFDL 1.2
Although this 767-300ER has a military livery (notice that sweet rudder though), it is for VIP Chilean transport and cargo
CHINA: Knowing exactly what Chinese leaders use is not as easy. There appears to be a fleet of aircraft, all Western, used for just VIP transport and some will be converted from passenger to VIP and back – Photo: Asuspine | GFDL 1.2
CUBA: The Il-96 is a great plane for an AvGeek to fly and also the one that the Cuban President rides. – Photo: Dmitry Terekhov | FlickrCC
CZECH REPUBLIC: The Czech Republic has a number of smaller VIP aircraft, but this Airbus A319CJ just looks beautiful in that livery! – Photo: Denmen Aviation Photography | FlickrCC
EGYPT: The Egyptian government has a pretty respectable fleet of smaller aircraft, like the Kingair, Falcons, and Gulfstreams, but the real VIP aircraft in the fleet is their Airbus A340-200. Check out those lower winglets. – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
ESWATINI: The government of Eswatini operates this sweet looking Airbus A340-300 and also an MD-80 for short-haul flights – Photo: Adam Moreira | GFDL 1.2
FRANCE: Not too surprising that the French President would fly on an Airbus — an A330-200 to be exact. The government has a number of transport airplanes, including the A310 and A340. – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
GAMBIA: Taken in 2014, the combo of aircraft and livery of Gambia’s VIP transport (reg C5-RTG) is easily in my top 3. Not only is it an Ilyushin Il-62M, but it also has such fun colors. – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
GERMANY: I love this design. So simple, yet elegant. This is one of three new Airbus A350s going to replace the aging A340s and A310. – Photo: Lufthansa Technik
The current “Konrad Adenauer,” which is the aircraft used for VIP transport — an Airbus A340-300 – Photo: BriYYZ | GFDL 1.2
INDIA: Although India has previously used Air India Boeing 747-400s, they are transitioning to 777-300ERs – Photo: Vikramdabas | GFDL 1.2
INDONESIA: Indonesia operates a Boeing Business Jet 737-800 seen in state livery –
Photo: Rob Schleiffert | GFDL 1.2
IRAN: Back in the day, Iran used to operate a classic… a Boeing 747SP – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
Today, The Islamic Republic of Iran has their own Airbus A340-300 – Photo: Papas Dos | FlickrCC
ISRAEL: Called the “Wing of Zion” this 767-300ER was converted to VIP transport for the Israeli Prime Minister in 2019 – Photo: Rami Mizrahi | GFDL 1.2
JAPAN: Up until recently, Japan used Boeing 747-400s for their head of state transport – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
Today, Japan uses the more fuel efficient Boeing 777-300ER – Photo: Dylan Agbagni (CC0) | FlickrCC
And that takes us through J, which those of you alphabet experts know is not the end, but I think it is a good stopping point for the first part of this story and I will continue on with rest of the nations in a second piece. Up through J, was there an interesting aircraft that you felt I missed? Also let me know what aircraft you would choose, if you were a world leader and finances were not much of a concern (i.e. having 1-2 aircraft types, not 20).
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