News That Matters

Super VIP Transports: The Aircraft World Leaders Fly

Air Force One about to land at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Air Force One has been an iconic aircraft since before I was born (not caring who was onboard, of course). Yes, I know that any aircraft carrying the U.S. President is called Air Force One, but I am talking about the two VC-25As – built off the Boeing 747-200 – that typically fly the president around the world. Those two planes (registration SAM 28000 and SAM 29000) not only represent the office of the president, but also our entire nation. In some ways, it says who we are as a people and how we want other nations to see us. Our country is also in the process of upgrading Air Force One to a pair of Boeing 747-8 Intercontinentals, called the VC-25B. You can probably look up dates when they might be finished, but I am willing to bet that the aircraft will be delayed.

I have also always been interested in the types of aircraft that other world leaders use for official duties around the world. Does it say something about their people? Their economies? Embargoes? Or what they might find cool and interesting? In this story I wanted to share in photos some of those aircraft. I am for sure not going to hit everyone, just those that I find the most interesting. Some leaders have an entire fleet of aircraft, while others might lease commercial aircraft from other countries to act as their state planes. The lines can often get blurred, but there are some interesting ones out there! I am not trying to make any political statements on why one state might run a fleet of wide-bodies, while another has a Cessna 152.

A C-32, based on the Boeing 757 – Photo: Jacob Pfleger

As you are looking through them… think about which aircraft you would want if you were a world leader. Sure, the Boeing 747 or Airbus A380 might seem like an easy choice for those who want to show off a bit, but not all airports can handle those big gals… hence why the U.S. has quite the fleet, including Boeing 757s (aka C-32), 737s (aka C-40), and many other aircraft at their disposal. Here we go!

Algeria has a few planes that they use, but the ultra-long range Airbus A340-500 is the pride of the fleet. Flying under the Algerian Air Force titles, this A345 is registered as 7T-VPP

ALGERIA: Algeria has a few planes that they use, but the ultra-long-range Airbus A340-500 is the pride of the fleet. Flying under the Algerian Air Force titles, this A345 is registered as 7T-VPP. – Photo: Jan Kertzscher | GFDL 1.2

Almost any livery looks good on a 757 and I think the Argentina's livery looks amazing. Unfortunately this bird doesn't fly for the country anymore -- but a 737-500 does - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

ARGENTINA: Almost any livery looks good on a 757 and I think Argentina’s looks amazing. Unfortunately this bird doesn’t fly for the country anymore — but a 737-500 does. – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

Armenia operates an Airbus A319 - Photo: Ole Simon | GFDL 1.2

ARMENIA: Armenia operates an Airbus A319 – Photo: Ole Simon | GFDL 1.2

A Royal Australian Air Force Boeing 707 seen in 1979 - Photo: Steve Fitzgerald | GFDL 1.2

AUSTRALIA: Okay, not currently, but I thought this classic Royal Australian Air Force Boeing 707, seen in 1979, looked too good not to share – Photo: Steve Fitzgerald | GFDL 1.2

The RAAF Boeing 737-700 BBJ - Photo Ev Brown | FlickrCC

The RAAF Boeing 737-700 BBJ gets the job done, but is not as beautiful as the 707 – Photo Ev Brown | FlickrCC

BAHRAIN: The Kingdom of Bahrain is one of those that have plenty of planes to choose from when someone in the Royal Family is looking to take a trip. And really, the fleet sounds like an AvGeek dream: Boeing 747SP, 747-8I, 727, and smaller planes that aren’t as exciting (you know, like the Gulfstream IV, G540, G550, and G650).

The Boeing 747SP - Photo Frans Zwart | FlickrCC

The Kingdom of Bahrain Boeing 747SP – Photo: Frans Zwart | FlickrCC

The Boeing 727-200 | Photo: Aero Icarus | FlickrCC

The Kingdom of Bahrain Boeing 727-200 – Photo: Aero Icarus | FlickrCC

The Boeing 747-8I BBJ - Photo: LFSB Planes Pictures | Flickr CC

The Kingdom of Bahrain Boeing 747-400 BBJ – Photo: LFSB Planes Pictures | Flickr CC

Althought Belarus also usea Boeing BBJ and 767-300ER for government business, they are still rocking their Tupolev Tu-154M, which is cool for any AvGeek - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

BELARUS: Althought Belarus also uses Boeing BBJ and a 767-300ER for government business, they are still rocking a Tupolev Tu-154M, which is cool for any AvGeek – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

The Sultan of Brunei has always had an impressive fleet of aircraft, but the Boeing 747-8 BBJ is the crown jewel - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

BRUNEI: The Sultan of Brunei has always had an impressive fleet of aircraft. Here is his Boeing 747-400, but he has now upgraded to 747-8 BBJ, with the same livery. – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

His Majisty used to fly the A340-200. The registration (V8-BKH) is now used on the 747-8 BBJ - Photo: John Taggart | FlickrCC

His Majesty used to fly the A340-200, which has a livery that most closely matches their nation’s airline. The registration (V8-BKH) is now used on the 747-8 BBJ – Photo: John Taggart | FlickrCC

The West African country of Brukina Faso, uses a Boeing 727-200 for short haul flights and rents out other aircraft for longer flights - Photo: LFSB Planes Pictures

BRUKINA FASO: The West African country of Brukina Faso uses a Boeing 727-200 for short-haul flights and rents out other aircraft for longer flights – Photo: LFSB Planes Pictures | FlickrCC

CANADA: Oh Canada! What a great fleet you got there, aircraft for diverse needs. They operate five CC-150 Polaris aircraft, based off the Airbus A310-300. Well, “operate” when they work — those are classic birds.

Chad has operated a number of different aircraft, including an MD-87, 737 BBJ, and this 767 for a short time - Photo: James | Flickr CC

CHAD: Chad has operated a number of different aircraft, including an MD-87, 737 BBJ, and this 767 for a short time – Photo: James | Flickr CC

Chilean VIP 737-500 transport - Photo: YSSYguy | GFDL 1.2

CHILE: Chilean VIP 737-500 transport, which has a very official looking livery. This is only used for short-haul, where the aircraft below for longer. – Photo: YSSYguy | GFDL 1.2

Although this has a military livery (notice that sweet rudder though), it is for VIP transport and cargo

Although this 767-300ER has a military livery (notice that sweet rudder though), it is for VIP Chilean transport and cargo

Knowing exactly what Chinese leaders use is not as easy. There appears to be a fleet of aircraft, all Western, used for just VIP transport and some will be converted from passenger to VIP and back - Photo: Asuspine | GFDL 1.2

CHINA: Knowing exactly what Chinese leaders use is not as easy. There appears to be a fleet of aircraft, all Western, used for just VIP transport and some will be converted from passenger to VIP and back – Photo: Asuspine | GFDL 1.2

As an AvGeek, having the choice to fly either the Il-96 or Il-62 is a win/win. That is what the Cuban President gets, pulling from Cubana's fleet - Photo: Dmitry Terekhov | FlickrCC

CUBA: The Il-96 is a great plane for an AvGeek to fly and also the one that the Cuban President rides. – Photo: Dmitry Terekhov | FlickrCC

The Czech Republic has a number of smaller VIP aircraft, but this Airbus A319CJ just looks beautiful in that livery! - Photo: Denmen Aviation Photography | FlickrCC

CZECH REPUBLIC: The Czech Republic has a number of smaller VIP aircraft, but this Airbus A319CJ just looks beautiful in that livery! – Photo: Denmen Aviation Photography | FlickrCC

Eqypt have a pretty good fleet of smaller aircraft, like the Kingair, Falcons, and Gulfstreams, but the real VIP aircraft in the fleet is their Airbus A340-200. Check out those lower winglets - Photo: Jason

EGYPT: The Egyptian government has a pretty respectable fleet of smaller aircraft, like the Kingair, Falcons, and Gulfstreams, but the real VIP aircraft in the fleet is their Airbus A340-200. Check out those lower winglets. – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

The government of Eswatini operates this sweet looking Airbus A340-300 and also an MD-80 for short-haul flights - Photo: Adam Moreira | GFDL 1.2

ESWATINI: The government of Eswatini operates this sweet looking Airbus A340-300 and also an MD-80 for short-haul flights – Photo: Adam Moreira | GFDL 1.2

Not too surprising that the French President would fly on an Airbus -- an A330-200 to be exact. The government has a number of transport airplanes, including the A310 and A340 - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

FRANCE: Not too surprising that the French President would fly on an Airbus — an A330-200 to be exact. The government has a number of transport airplanes, including the A310 and A340. – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

Taken in 2014, the combo of aircraft and livery of Gambia's VIP transport (reg C5-RTG) is easily in my top 3. Not only is it an Ilyushin Il-62M, but it also has such fun colors - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

GAMBIA: Taken in 2014, the combo of aircraft and livery of Gambia’s VIP transport (reg C5-RTG) is easily in my top 3. Not only is it an Ilyushin Il-62M, but it also has such fun colors. – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

I love this design. So simple, yet elegant. This is one of three new Airbus A350s going to replace the aging A340s and A310 - Photo: Lufthansa Technik

GERMANY: I love this design. So simple, yet elegant. This is one of three new Airbus A350s going to replace the aging A340s and A310. – Photo: Lufthansa Technik

The current "Konrad Adenauer," which is the aircraft used for VIP transport -- an Airbus A340-300 - Photo: BriYYZ |

The current “Konrad Adenauer,” which is the aircraft used for VIP transport — an Airbus A340-300 – Photo: BriYYZ | GFDL 1.2

Although India has previously used Air India Boeing 747-400s, they are transitioning to 777-300ERs - Photo Vikramdabas |

INDIA: Although India has previously used Air India Boeing 747-400s, they are transitioning to 777-300ERs – Photo: Vikramdabas | GFDL 1.2

Previously Air India Boeing 747s were used - Photo: Colin Brown Photography | FlickrCC

Previously, Air India Boeing 747s were used – Photo: Colin Brown Photography | FlickrCC

Indonesia operates a Boeing Business Jet 737-800 seen in state livery - Photo: Rob Schleiffert |

INDONESIA: Indonesia operates a Boeing Business Jet 737-800 seen in state livery –
Photo: Rob Schleiffert | GFDL 1.2

Back in the day, Iran used to operate a classic... a Boeing 747SP - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

IRAN: Back in the day, Iran used to operate a classic… a Boeing 747SP – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

Today, The Islamic Republic of Iran has their own Airbus A340-300 - Photo: Papas Dos | FlickrCC

Today, The Islamic Republic of Iran has their own Airbus A340-300 – Photo: Papas Dos | FlickrCC

ISRAEL: Called the "Wing of Zion" this 767-300ER was converted to VIP transport for the Israeli Prime Minister in 2019 - Photo: Rami Mizrahi

ISRAEL: Called the “Wing of Zion” this 767-300ER was converted to VIP transport for the Israeli Prime Minister in 2019 – Photo: Rami Mizrahi | GFDL 1.2

JAPAN: Up until recently, Japan used Boeing 747-400s for their head of state transport - Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

JAPAN: Up until recently, Japan used Boeing 747-400s for their head of state transport – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz

Today, Japan uses the more fuel efficient Boeing 777-300ER - Photo: Dylan Agbagni (CC0) | FlickrCC

Today, Japan uses the more fuel efficient Boeing 777-300ER – Photo: Dylan Agbagni (CC0) | FlickrCC

And that takes us through J, which those of you alphabet experts know is not the end, but I think it is a good stopping point for the first part of this story and I will continue on with rest of the nations in a second piece. Up through J, was there an interesting aircraft that you felt I missed? Also let me know what aircraft you would choose, if you were a world leader and finances were not much of a concern (i.e. having 1-2 aircraft types, not 20).

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER – SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

http://www.airlinereporter.com

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