Could any aircraft be more glamorous than Air Force One (which, incidentally, is really two planes?)
In keeping with our abiding interest in aviation, we perked up when a recent daily bulletin from statistics service Statista started with: “When it comes to describing Donald Trump’s private jet, the word ‘impressive’ would be an understatement.”
Would it really? Let’s have a look.
According to reports, U.S. reality television star and presidential candidate Donald Trump purchased his Boeing 757-200 from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2011. It had started its life 20 years earlier in the service of a now-defunct Danish airline. In Trump’s hands it was done up in a new livery, which bears the name “TRUMP” in white letters against a navy blue background. His previous plane, a 727, had TRUMP in gold. But not to worry, there’s still gold on the inside! The Washington Post reported that Trump refitted his new 757 “with plenty of gold plating and Trump family crests” on the interior.
Donald Trump’s personal 757: Pretty yuge, but maybe not as big as Air Force One
Leaving aside the fact that a 757 hasn’t rolled off the line since Boeing discontinued the model in 2004, is this an impressive plane? The Donald’s plane is so big it has its own fans. And The Donald would appear to believe it’s special.
“It’s bigger than Air Force One, which is a step down from this in every way,” he told Rolling Stone correspondent Paul Solotaroff for a profile last fall.
Thanks to Statista, we have a factual comparison to share, which we present without comment.
In the opposing corner, you have the icon: Air Force One, a plane so famous that Harrison Ford made a movie about it in the 1990s (does anyone remember if it was any good?).
Technically any aircraft flying with the president in it is “Air Force One,” but what interests everyone are the two planes designated for big trips with the whole entourage. They’re 747s (the second-biggest jetliner ever built, considerably roomier than a 757), each outfitted with a gym, a doctor, some 20 televisions and 85 phones, and gizmos that befuddle anti-aircraft missiles. The interior is done up in lots of creams and butterscotches, a calmingly bland and very American style reminiscent of the rooms at Hilton Hotels.
Here, have a peek.
(A replacement for the current Air Force Ones was announced last year; once again the 747 airframe was selected, but the replacement will be bigger and with even more gizmos.)
Meanwhile, Air Force One is Air Force One. It carries an aura. A few years ago, your correspondent happened to be departing New Orleans on the same afternoon as President Obama. This led to the lesson that the U.S. president’s plane taking off means yours … doesn’t. Hundreds of passengers at Louis Armstrong International fretted and grumbled as Obama’s departure kept getting pushed back, jeopardizing our chances of making our connections. But when the white and pale blue bird finally zipped up the runway, dozens of people stood and watched by the windows. We were transfixed by the sheer awe of being so close to the world’s most famous airplane (well, one of the two copies of it).
We’re not sure Trump’s 757 can do that.
You can leave after I leave. Deal?
As for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, how luxuriously does he fly? As per Canadian custom, our executive transport appears not to be so fancy. For travelling VIPs – government ministers, governors-general, visiting royals and their staffs – the Royal Canadian Air Force operates a fleet of five Airbus A-310s (designated by the military as “CC-150 Polarises”). And for shorter flights, there are six Bombardier Challenger jets.
What these planes are like on the inside is seldom revealed, but available evidence suggests they are dated and spartan. There is a full bed for whoever is top dog on the way to the overseas meeting in question. Other amenities include what the press has described as a tiny office and even smaller shower. Based on the one photo we could find of a Royal Canadian flying bedroom, the décor is reminiscent of a 1980s pocket yacht.
Why so drab? Because Canadians get ornery when they see money spent anytime, anywhere, on anything. Canadian politicians and vice-royals have been criticized for certain flights, and even the very existence of VIP jets for the country’s top officials has caused controversy. Some will recall that when Jean Chrétien was prime minister – and he served for a full decade, from 1993 to 2003 – he refused to use the Royal Canadian Air Force’s VIP Airbuses, and flew commercial instead.
Former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper not only used the planes, he reportedly stumped for a snazzier white-red-and blue paint job for the aircraft specifically designated for the prime minister (registration RCAF 01), at a reported cost of $50,000. This reportedly led to behind-the-scenes bickering between Harper and his high-profile defence minister, Peter MacKay, who wanted to keep the PM’s plane a low-visibility gunmetal grey.
The Airbus used by Canadian prime ministers is reportedly pretty dowdy on the inside
The opposition, of course, howled at the expense. NDP Member of Parliament Pat Martin was quoted at the time as saying: “I wonder how it feels for grassroots Conservative MPs to be forced to defend using tax dollars to play Pimp My Ride with the prime minister’s flying Taj Mahal.”
Explanatory note for our American readers: Dad jokes are a staple parliamentary tradition up here. And note the phrase “flying Taj Mahal,” for an aircraft with an interior that looks drabber than your cabin in a typical overnight ferry. This is why Justin can’t have nice things.