Sunday, January 25, 2009

On Board Air Force One

There’s a new series starting tonight on The National Geographic Channel. I thought a number of my readers might like to watch it. There is (of course) a page of promotional videos on line. This link should lead you to a video of Marine One visiting New York.

No matter how many times it is said, there is always some confusion over the designation of Air Force One (or Marine One.) Air Force One isn’t an airplane (or any number of aircraft) available to the President. “Air Force One” is a call sign. If the President decided to take a joy ride on an F-15, it would become “Air Force One”. When President Bush took his flight out to the aircraft carrier, the Navy plane he was in became “Navy One”.

Back in the old days, “Air Force One” was printed on the flight progress strips as “A1”. “A” being the designator for “Air Force”. I always thought of steak sauce when I saw it. Things have since changed.

When the ex-President Bush left the Capitol Building after the inauguration, some news outfit said the flight was using the call sign “Executive One”. They were incorrect. The call sign “Executive One” is used when the President is on board a private (civil) aircraft. If the ex-President is aboard a Marine aircraft that aircraft has a Marine call sign -- like “Marine Four Five Six”. Seeing as it was the Presidential helicopter unit that was flying the ex-President -- and their call sign is “Nighthawk” -- the flight’s call sign was probably something like “Nighthawk Three”.

(If you’ll listen closely, the very first word in the very first radio transmission on the video is “Nighthawk”.)

It’s all in “the Book” -- the 7110.65.


Use the full identification in reply to aircraft with similar sounding identifications. For other aircraft, the same identification may be used in reply that the pilot used in his/her initial callup except use the correct identification after communications have been established. Identify aircraft as follows:

7. Presidential aircraft and Presidential family aircraft:

(a) When the President is aboard a military aircraft, state the name of the military service, followed by the word "One."

"Air Force One."
"Army One."
"Marine One."

(b) When the President is aboard a civil aircraft, state the words "Executive One."

(c) When a member of the President's family is aboard any aircraft, if the U.S. Secret Service or the White House Staff determines it is necessary, state the words "Executive One Foxtrot."

Don Brown
January 25, 2008

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