Air Force One is among the most recognizable symbols of the American presidency. Ready to transport the president wherever in the world he needs to travel, it is part mobile command center, part office and part hotel.

Marcelle Pomerleau Leahy, Patrick Leahy and President Obama seated aboard Air Force One (White House)
President Obama talks with Senator Patrick Leahy and his wife, Marcelle Pomerleau Leahy, aboard Air Force One. (White House)

John F. Kennedy was the first president to fly in a jet built specifically for presidential use in 1962. The two planes used by President Obama today — they are interchangeable, so there is always a backup — are a pair of Boeing 747-200B wide-bodied aircraft that were first used by President George H.W. Bush. The planes are equipped with everything the president needs to fulfill his office in case of an emergency.

President Obama and two boys looking out aircraft windows (White House)
President Obama looks out a window of Air Force One with the sons of an aide during a flight to Hawaii in 2011. (White House)

Each plane has about 370 square meters of floor space over three levels. There is a medical suite that can function as an operating room, and a doctor is always on board. The plane’s two galleys can feed 100 people at a time. A large conference room doubles as a dining area.

George W. Bush showing photos to Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Obama staff and Cabinet members, and Laura Bush, gathered around table (White House)
Aboard Air Force One, former President George W. Bush shows photos of his paintings to first lady Michelle Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama staff and Cabinet members, and Laura Bush. (White House)

There are quarters for advisers, Secret Service officers, reporters and guests. Air Force One can be refueled in midair and is equipped with advanced communications equipment.

President Obama, John Kerry and others seated and talking in office on Air Force One (White House)
President Obama meets with Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice and other advisers in his office aboard Air Force One. (White House)

The president’s onboard living quarters include a bedroom, a bathroom, a workout room and office space.

President Obama with dog (White House)
President Obama plays with his dog Bo aboard Air Force One. (White House)

Mechanics of the U.S. Air Force’s 89th Airlift Wing at a facility 10 miles from the White House maintain the jumbo aircraft. The planes are spotless; they get hand-waxed at least once a week inside a tightly guarded hangar.

Several cargo planes typically fly ahead of Air Force One with presidential limousines, Secret Service vans and sometimes a dismantled Marine One helicopter.

President Obama with umbrella climbing stairs to Air Force One (White House)
President Obama boards Air Force One in North Canton, Ohio. (White House)