How the Air Force One Hybrid Works

By: Chris Pollette

Air Force One Hybrid Amenities

Thousands of lead-acid batteries help power the four jet engines on the new Air Force One, but some of the amenities had to be removed to make room.
Thousands of lead-acid batteries help power the four jet engines on the new Air Force One, but some of the amenities had to be removed to make room.
©2008 HowStuffWorks

Since 1943, the president of the United States has been able to travel in an aircraft named Air Force One. Though the name is the military designation for any airplane carrying the U.S. president, the moniker, and the planes that carry it, have captured the attention of people around the world.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first to use an aircraft for transportation, a Boeing 314 Clipper. In 1962, a Boeing 707-320B debuted as the first jet Air Force One [source: Boeing].


The hybrid version of the 747-400ER is much like the 747-200s that carried the commander in chief around the world before it. It carries advanced avionics systems, the ability to refuel in flight, and plenty of room for government personnel, security and the press.

While the last pair of 747s to serve as Air Force One were in service for 18 years, the hybrid Air Force One will be the only one of its kind until Boeing can retrofit another with the hybrid technology, which Blanchard said she expects will take another eight to 14 months. "It's expensive technology and took a long time to test," she said. "But they said they'd do their best to squeeze us in when they could."

Blanchard said the government had a hard time keeping the project classified until its debut. "There were so many people working on it, but of course it was a top-secret project. Thankfully, it looks just like the regular version of the plane from the outside, otherwise it might have gotten leaked."

To make room for the massive numbers of lead-acid batteries that it takes to generate power for the aircraft engines, however, something had to give. One of the aircraft's two galleys, or in-flight kitchens, had to be removed. The plane still has an onboard pharmacy, communications systems, self-defense systems and a soft-serve frozen yogurt and topping bar.

"Unfortunately, we had to have the bowling alley removed," Blanchard said. "President Bush isn't much of a kegler, but many in his cabinet are. I suppose Dr. Rice [U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice] will have to continue her quest for a perfect 300 back on the ground now."

For more information on the real Air Force One, hybrids, April Fools' jokes and related topics, visit the next page.

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