The craziest features on Air Force One

We all need an occasional reminder that, in the event of a national emergency, we'll all be left alone to face the nuclear bombs, smallpox pandemic, and/or alien invasion with whatever canned foods, respirators, or alien incapacitation devices we're able to loot from the local Walgreens. Meanwhile, our president will be roaming the skies in relative safety — and also luxury because you can hardly expect the guy to defuse a national emergency unless he's sleeping on 1800 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets.

Air Force One is a pretty marvelous piece of technology, designed not only to get the president from A to B, but also to function as a command center where he (or she, hopefully, someday) can handle the important things that come up during those long hours in the air, you know, like the sudden need to get a haircut or a throw a birthday party. The Air Force One VC-25A aircraft is also, as you might imagine, a virtual fortress, so when that alien attack finally happens, we won't have to worry that our president might get captured and probed by the enemy. Because that's what we'll all be thinking about at the end of the world, right?

You've never stayed in a hotel this nice

The next time you're crammed into coach with a tiny bag of honey roasted peanuts and your knees contorted the most unnatural way you can imagine, spend some time thinking about how the president flies. Because even if you have a five-star hotel waiting for you at the end of your journey, it won't ever quite compare to the five-star luxury of Air Force One.

On your 10-hour flight from one side of the world to the other, you get to have a seat that's half the size of your own butt. According to the BBC, the president gets his own sleeping quarters and a gym. You get to sit one row from the latrine where you can enjoy the complex bouquet of nervous travelers' digestive systems while you eat your bag of peanuts. The president gets a full bathroom with a shower, and although we haven't confirmed this, there's a decent chance he can actually turn around in it. And the president's bathroom probably doesn't also have a cheap plastic door that slams all the time and an air filtration system that seems like it does nothing.

So yeah, there's some luxury on Air Force One but hey, it's not like we expect the president to have to fly like a common person while he's putting down an alien invasion, right?

There's no way a missile is bringing this thing down

You may be thinking to yourself, "But it's an airplane. Aren't airplanes vulnerable to things like missiles, and just crashing in general?" And you're right. Missiles are definitely a big concern for the staff of Air Force One because when the president is in the sky he's potentially a lot more vulnerable than he is on the ground.

But the good news (for the president, not really for you) is that the designers of Air Force One thought about all that, so the plane comes equipped with lots of anti-missile technology. According to Aviationist, it can jam infrared-guided missiles with "IRCM jammers" that emit a special modulated infrared light. It also has flares, which are extra-hot and will therefore mislead heat-seeking missiles. And it has tech that can report and track a missile, too, which is kind of important since you usually need to know about an oncoming missile before you can actually try to avoid it.

No one is really sure how those devices will stand up to alien tractor beams, but at least we know that missiles of human origin probably won't ever reach Air Force One.

It costs more than four times the average American salary to operate Air Force One ... per hour

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the fourth quarter of 2018 the average American salary was roughly $46,800 per year. So grab a bucket to vomit into because you might find this nauseating: Operating Air Force One for just one hour costs more than four times what most Americans earn in a whole year. Yes, it's true, if you could just convince the president to stay home for like one hour and contribute to your GoFundMe page instead, you could quit your job and pay your bills for four years without ever once having to update your resume. Hooray! It's never going to happen, but, hooray!

So why does it cost so much to keep Air Force One in the sky? The luxury sheets? The air freshener? Well, maybe, but it's mostly because of the logistics. According to Business Insider, Air Force One has a crew of 26, and those people have to be paid. There's also the cost of fuel and supplies. But it isn't just one plane — the other VC-25A has to come along, too, just in case the first one gets accidentally vaporized by a UFO. And there are also the cargo planes that have to transport the presidential limo, and three helicopters have to come, too, because the president might not want to take the limo if there's traffic. So you know, all very necessary expenses. We're told.

Can we have some of that nuclear blast imperviousness, please?

All the missile imperviousness in the world won't do you any good if the whole country explodes and takes you with it, so naturally Air Force One also has to be impervious to a nuclear blast. Wait, what? You mean nuclear blast imperviousness is actually a thing? So why don't they also make houses out of the stuff they make Air Force One out of? Oh yeah, common people.

Air Force One is designed not just to detect and divert those very ordinary surface-to-air missiles but also to survive in the air while nuclear bombs are incinerating everything below. According to Euro News, Air Force One is covered with armor that's capable of withstanding a nuclear blast — sadly, though, just the on-the-ground nuclear explosion and not the "oh my god a nuclear warhead is heading toward Air Force One!" sort of explosion. Though who knows, maybe those missile evasion systems could also successfully divert a nuclear warhead, too, thus sending it harmlessly into a public school or something.

There's a doctor on board! Like, all the time.

Lots of things could potentially happen to the president while aboard Air Force One, like maybe he chokes on his grilled beef tenderloin with stewed pinto beans and fresh tomato salsa with a side of garlic toast and a garden salad and a nice strawberry sundae for dessert. Or maybe he has a heart attack from eating so much steak on Air Force One all the time. Honestly, though, what the hell could actually happen to the president while in an armored, missile-impervious fortress thousands of feet above the Earth?

Well, in the unlikely event that something actually did happen, the staff is prepared. According to ABC News, there's a whole medical suite complete with a defibrillator, a pharmacy full of medication, an operating table, and an onboard doctor, who hopefully is skilled in both the Heimlich maneuver and emergency bypass surgery. Most of the time, though, we suspect that the onboard doctor sits around watching House reruns because there can't really be a whole lot for him to do.

You won't get any honey-roasted peanuts on this flight

Back in the days when you could actually expect to get food on a domestic flight you could also expect it to have some awful mystery meat with soggy peas floating in a coagulated cream sauce. Everyone moans about how airlines don't serve food anymore but do you really miss that? Really?

Anyway, according to ABC, the president not only gets food on his domestic flights, he also gets actual, real, edible food, which must be so lovely for him. So while we're all paying three bucks for a crappy little bag of peanuts, the president is dining on restaurant quality Italian food with tiramisu for dessert. Though if he wants, he can also get a burger, and not like some greasy, gray thing that comes with a Wonder Bread bun, either. And just in case the president wants to order off-menu, Air Force One gets stocked with random groceries before every flight, so there will be a good chance that the chef will be able to prepare whatever gourmet item the commander in chief happens to be craving.

It's not just the president who needs feeding, though. Air Force One features two food preparation galleys capable of feeding 100 people, which on any given flight is roughly the number of people on board, including the staff.

And also, bulletproof glass

To guard against assassins with poor planning skills, Air Force One also comes equipped with bulletproof windows. Now, an assassin who chooses to strike after his target has boarded a very large aircraft with very small windows is probably not someone you need to be afraid of, but you really don't want to leave any of your bases uncovered, even the bases that almost certainly don't exist.

So anyway, according to Euronews the windows on Air Force One are made from "bulletproof armored glass." So add that up with all the aircraft's other safety features and even when he's in the air, the president is probably safer on that VC-25A than he is anywhere else in the world. All of that and comfy sheets, a bathroom you can turn around in, and peanuts that don't come in a half-ounce bag. It's good to be the president.

Because poisoning your enemies is still a thing

In ye olden days, if you wanted to kill the king you put death cap mushrooms in his meatball stroganoff. It was an easy, distant, bloodless way to murder someone, though you don't hear so much about it as a means of assassination anymore since humans have developed explode-y things that fill the easy and distant part of the trifecta, if not the bloodless part.

In those days, though, the threat of poison was so real that royals would hire food tasters whose job was to make sure the king's food wasn't poisoned by dying on his behalf if it was. That particular job didn't have much of a retirement plan, but there was free food.

Today the president can't really have his own poison checker because of, you know, ethics, but the Secret Service is still on guard for that remote possibility. According to ABC News, Air Force One chefs do all their shopping incognito because you never know when some grocery clerk is going to run out back, pick a couple of death caps, and swap them for the president's portobellos.

So much electrical wire

If you took all the electrical wire out of Air Force One, the president would be super pissed at you. But also, you could take your ill-gotten electrical wire and stretch it all the way from Dallas to Houston, and then people would go, "Why the hell are you stretching that wire all the way from Dallas to Houston?" And you'd be all, "I don't know."

Anyway, according to Business Insider, Air Force One needs 240 miles of electrical wire because it has 85 telephones, so just about everyone onboard could be on the phone at the same time. Air Force One also has 20 screens, so the president can, depending on various factors, watch CNN or Fox News or whatever else strikes his fancy on the way to wherever he's going. On 20 screens at the same time or from probably any part of the plane. Your tax dollars at work.

Midair refueling means never having to say "let's land now"

So in the event of a major world disaster, like a smallpox pandemic or a zombie apocalypse, the president could theoretically just fly around in the sky forever, or until the pandemic/apocalypse is over, whichever comes first. According to Popular Mechanics, Air Force One has the ability to refuel in midair, though rumor has it that future incarnations may not have that feature (mostly because of cost).

Also, if you think about it, there's really only so long you could keep up the indefinite flying thing — eventually smallpox is going to take out every guy who knows how to perform the weirdly disturbing-looking procedure, and zombies will somehow figure out a way to infiltrate the Air Force, and somehow a tiger would get involved because that's totally what would happen on The Walking Dead. Also there's the whole wear-and-tear thing — no matter how good your mechanics were on the ground, there's only so much they can do to keep a plane airworthy when its been flying 24/7 for the last six years.

What, no elevator?

And because the Secret Service thought of literally everything, Wired says Air Force One has its own retractable stairs. These stairs are located at the front and rear of the aircraft, just in case the president feels like mixing it up one day or if the rear of the plane is closer to the duty-free shop and he won't have to walk as far. Seriously though it makes a certain kind of sense because stairs that you can take with you aren't subject to sabotage the way an airport-owned jetway or a set of rolling stairs might be.

So wait, how exactly does one sabotage a jetway or a set of rolling stairs? Well, you could jam a stick into the wheel spokes? Or pour some grease on the walkway? Drop an anvil on it? Airport saboteurs must be super-smart, because we really have no idea. There's always the "stuff a bomb inside it" type of sabotage, but airports generally are on high alert for those things.

Faster than the speed of just slightly below the speed of sound

Not only is Air Force One super-safe, it's also super-fast because time is money. Lots and lots of money.

According to the Military Factory, the Air Force One VC-25A has a top speed of 629 mph, which at an altitude of 35,000 feet is roughly 30 mph slower than the speed of sound. That sounds super-impressive until you hear that the average airliner cruises at about 575 miles per hour, so that extra 50 or so mph really isn't doing a whole lot for the president's schedule, unless he really needs to get the zombie antidote to the CDC before it reverses potency and infects everyone on board, in which case that extra 50 mph could make all the difference.

Air Force One also cruises higher than the average airliner — 45,000 feet instead of 30,000 feet, so you won't have to worry you might accidentally see it on your early morning flight to London or anything. And if you did, they've probably got some Men in Black-style memory tech on board so you won't remember anything anyway.

Only the most distinguished service people are fit to be the president's janitor

Arranging a family vacation or a weekend getaway with your friends probably feels like a military operation sometimes, but when the president travels it literally is a military operation — hence the $200,000 an hour price tag. According to How Stuff Works, everyone involved in the operation is military, from the people who inspect the VC-25A to the kitchen staff to the guy who cleans the president's bathroom. And not just any Air Force officer will do. In order to be deemed fit to remove the president's poo stains from inside an Air Force One toilet, you must be carefully screened and you must have exemplary service records.

There's more to moving the president from A to B than just serving a burger and cleaning up his poo stains, though. It's all a huge, coordinated mobilization of equipment, personnel, and groceries that's really just a high-tech, airborne version of what kings and queens did in the Middle Ages and renaissance, only without the horses. Which is a relief, really, because imagine having to clean the president's poo stains and all of that horse crap, too.

What Air Force One doesn't have: Escape pods and parachutes

In the 1997 movie Air Force One, terrorists somehow manage to get past all those Secret Service agents, incognito chefs, and specially trained janitors so they can cause terror and mayhem, which is what terrorists are good at. President Harrison Ford gets hustled into the bowels of Air Force One, where he's hastily tossed into an escape pod and ejected from the plane. Then a bunch of other passengers escape out a parachute ramp. This all makes perfectly logical Hollywood sense because of course Air Force One would have an emergency evacuation plan since it also has all that missile-deflecting stuff and the bulletproof windows and whatnot.

None of it is true, though. Air Force One doesn't have a parachute ramp because according to CNN, the huge aircraft generates a slipstream that makes it impossible to actually use a parachute. There's no escape pod, either. So if there ever was trouble on Air Force One, the president would have to crash and die just like us commoners would do if we were on a doomed airliner. So in that, at least, we're still his equals.