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When Air Force One comes calling

Originally Air Force One was essentially the air traffic control call sign for any US air force aircraft carrying the US President.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2006 17:16 IST

It's the world's most sophisticated carrier, often called the flying White House, it can work as a military command center in any emergency -- and it will bring George W Bush to India on Wednesday.

Meet the Air Force One.

The Boeing 747-200B is an unlimited range aircraft that has mind-boggling features: It can refuel in mid-air, it has the set up to counter any missile attack, it is guarded from any electromagnetic pulse in the event of a nuclear attack: The giant of a monster is believed to be the safest location in the air.

Originally "Air Force One" was essentially the air traffic control call sign for any US air force aircraft carrying the US president.

In 1990, two specifically configured 747-200B series jets, with tail numbers 28000 and 29000 and with air force designation VC-25A, became the Air Force One.

Both aircraft are deployed during any presidential mission. While one carries the president, the other follows it and is kept a stand-by parked at a quick reachable destination.

The planes that serve as Air Force One differ from the standard Boeing 747 in size, features and security precautions.

While Air Force One has three floors, like a regular Boeing 747, its interior has been reconfigured for presidential duties.

On board are a fully functional office that also includes the president's executive suite that includes a private dressing and workout room, a lavatory, a shower and a private office.

In the office areas, there are facilities for photocopying and printing and computer work stations as well as telecommunication systems, including 85 telephone lines and 19 televisions, all connected through dedicated satellite links for global communications.

There are also secure and non-secure voice, fax and data communication. The electronics on board are connected with approximately 238 miles (383 km) of wiring, twice that of a regular 747.

All wirings are covered with heavy shielding for protection from electromagnetic flux in the event of a nuclear attack.

The planes have electronic counter measure to jam enemy radars and flares to avoid heat-seeking missiles. Many of Air Force One's other capabilities are kept undisclosed due to security reasons.

The plane's 4,000 square feet of interior floor space include multiple modifications. Their lowest levels are mostly cargo space carrying both luggage and food supply.

The food, stored in freezers, is enough for 2,000 meals. Meals are prepared in two galleys, which together are equipped to feed about 100 people at a time.

The main passenger area is on the second floor. The communications equipment and the cockpit are on the third floor.

There are three entrances onboard. Two doors, one at the front and one at the rear, open onto the lower deck. One door opens at the front, opening onto the middle deck.

Normally, when you see the US president getting on and off Air Force One with a wave, he is using the door onto the middle deck after a rolling staircase has been pulled up to the plane.

Journalists normally enter through the rear door, where they immediately climb a staircase to the middle deck. Most of the press area looks something like the first class section of an ordinary jetliner, with comfortable, spaced-out seats.

On board Air Force One are medical facilities, including a foldout operating table, emergency medical supplies, and a well-stocked pharmacy. On every flight there is a staff doctor.

In addition, there are separate sleeping quarters for guests, senior staff, secret service and security personnel, and the news media.

The Air Force One's length is 231 feet and 10 inches, height 63 feet and 5 inches, wingspan 195 feet and 8 inches, and it has an estimated speed capability of 630 mph.

It has a crew of 26 and can carry up to 102 people. The US Air Force maintains the aircraft.

First Published: Feb 28, 2006 17:16 IST