A Few Former Presidents Have Revealed These Incredible Facts About Air Force One

Air Force One is the official name for the aircraft that carries the President of the United States when he’s traveling. The plane is considered to be one of the greatest symbols of the American presidency and the power of the position. The idea for a specific airplane for the president came about in 1943 after the United States Army Air Forces became concerned about the reliance on commercial airlines to transport the president. But Air Force One is much more than just a private plane. It’s a flying vault full of secrets that few presidents have opened up about, until now.

It Can Fly Higher And Go Faster Than Other Planes

Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images
Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images

Air Force One has the capability to fly at nearly 650 miles per hour. That’s extremely fast for such a large plane. But that’s not all! It can also fly higher than most commercial planes at 45,000 feet.

That’s 10,000 feet higher than the normal cruising altitude of any typical passenger airliners. Despite flying so high and so fast, Air Force One is also an incredibly smooth ride, making it a traveling experience fit for a president.

It Can Be Refueled In Mid-Air

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Amazingly, Air Force One has the ability to never need to land. It can be refueled mid-flight for security reasons, so the president never has to land in an unsafe situation.

If necessary, the plane could fly forever, or at least until there was some kind of serious mechanical failure. But even then, with a plane like this, who knows? On top of mid-air refueling, Air Force One has a gas tank that can hold 53,611 gallons. That should last you for a while!

Nobody Ever Goes Hungry

VCG/VCG via Getty Images
VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Air Force One is decked out with not one, but two restaurants. Okay, maybe they’re not complete restaurants, but there are two massive fully-stocked kitchens that feed the president, his staff, family, and the crew.

The president and his guests can have just about anything that they want to eat as the stores are always stocked and the plane is staffed with top-rated chefs. The main kitchen can fit up to 100 people and is always full of bustling workers.

There’s No Shortage Of Phones

Ira Wyman/Sygma via Getty Images
Ira Wyman/Sygma via Getty Images

Aboard Air Force One, there are over 85 phones available for use. Why so many? As it turns out, the plane is the most secure place that the president can talk, even more so than the White House.

The Executive Phones are particularly special, and have lights on the back that turn red when the phone line has become secure. Besides a few of these special phones, there are dozens of less-secure lines that are often used for the press and other staff.

Why Is Air Force One Painted Blue?

Air Force One’s color scheme is certainly eye-catching. Its distinctive paint job is largely due to President John F. Kennedy’s affinity for the color blue. When industrial designer Raymond Loewy worked alongside the president and first lady, he chose the particular robin’s egg blue in the hopes it would please the Kennedys.

He was right, and the color scheme has remained to this day. However, when former-President Trump was planning on redesigning Air Force One it he wanted it to be painted red, white, and blue. In an interview, he specifically said that he wanted to trade the “Jackie Kennedy color” for a hue that’s “more American.”

Even Early Incarnation Had High-Tech Wheel Wells

Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images
Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

In 1959, President Eisenhower ordered the director of Central Intelligence to install high-powered spy cameras in the wheel wells of the early Air Force One that he flew in. These cameras were so powerful that even at that time they could read license plates from the sky. The motive behind installing these cameras was the Cold War.

Today, it is believed that these sky-to-ground cameras have been installed in other places on the underbelly of the plane with the technology greatly improving over the years.

The Plane Is Family-Friendly

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Although Air Force One is one of the most heavily-guarded and technologically advanced aircraft on the planet, it’s actually very family-friendly. It’s designed to be comfortable for the president and his family, giving them all the opportunity to put their feet up and relax while traveling from place to place.

It’s also designed with guests in mind and the president’s guests are treated as though they are at a five-star resort. In addition, journalists and other staff are treated well, and even have their own cabins in the back of the plane.

It’s Essentially A Flying House

George W. Bush Presidential Library/Getty Images
George W. Bush Presidential Library/Getty Images

Air Force One is large enough to be a pretty substantially sized house, except it flies thousands of feet in the air. It has three stories and is over 4,0000 square feet in area, definitely not very cramped quarters for the president and others on the plane.

The president also has a large office, his own bathroom, and a massive conference room. Special guests also receive private quarters which are nothing short of what you’d find in a luxury hotel. Sure beats flying coach!

There’s More Than Enough Room

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Pinterest

While Air Force One can hold hundreds of people relatively comfortably, in reality, it can only safely seat 70. This means sitting in one of the more typical airplane seats. However, the living quarters can accommodate more people such as senior advisors, Secret Service officers, reporters, and political guests.

This means that not everybody has a designated seat with a seat belt, with the central seating area of the plane being reserved for the president and their family.

“Special Mission 41”

After former President George H.W. Bush died on December 1, 2018, Air Force One was used to carry him one last time. In a sequence of flights dubbed “Special Mission 41,” the plane brought Bush from Houston, Texas, to Washington, D.C. It will then carry him back to Texas. He will be laid to rest at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, alongside his wife Barbara.

On December 3, 2018, Bush’s former spokesman Jim McGrath tweeted, “Air Force One has arrived in Houston for what will technically be called ‘Special Air Mission 41’ tomorrow and Wednesday. A beautiful day in Texas — ‘ceiling and visibility unlimited,’ Mr. President” ahead of the mission. Above, the sun rises as Air Force One waits for the honor guard to bring Bush aboard.

It’s Not A Cheap Airplane

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In order to keep the airplane off the ground, staffed, and in working condition, it costs approximately $206,000 an hour to operate Air Force One. Compare that to the $20,000 an hour it costs for a regular commercial airline.

Within his first month in office, President Donald Trump’s traveling costs were upwards of $10 million. However, it’s important to keep in mind that presidential travel includes bringing hundreds of people on duty along with dozens of other aircraft that are in use at the same time.

Homeland Security Was Born On Air Force One

Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images
Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security was established on board Air Force One in 2002 by President George W. Bush. It is a cabinet department of the United States federal government which is involved in anti-terrorism, border security, immigration, cyber-security, disaster prevention, and management.

It was established thousands of feet above Germany following the attacks of September 11th. The creation of this department has forever changed the way that the government functions and interacts with its citizens.

The Plane Is Nuclear Resistant

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For obvious reasons, Air Force One is about as nuclear proof as the Oval Office is. Whether it’s on the ground or in the air, the plane has the ability to withstand a nuclear blast.

This has become necessary for anything that houses or transports the president and other high-ranking officials. The plane has been put through through rigorous tests mimicking the effects of a nuclear attack. Hopefully, it won’t ever be put to the ultimate test.

What Happens When A President Lands

ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images
ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images

When Air Force One is about to make a landing, the airport that is going to host the plane is made aware well beforehand. An hour before the plane is expected to land, the entire air space is cleared in order for a safe landing.

Once Air Force One lands, there is no help from outside services, as the airplane and staff are completely self-contained. After leaving the airplane, the president is then transferred to Cadillac One, also known as “The Beast.”

There’s A Miniature Hospital Onboard

NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images
NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

In case anybody falls ill or if there are minor (or even serious) injuries, the airplane is equipped with a miniature hospital along with doctors that are on duty at all time. It’s crucial that the president and other members of staff have access to doctors, medicine, and any other first-aid that may be needed at any time.

Being ill isn’t really a valid excuse for a president to miss important meetings, so they are prepared for anything on Air Force One.

The Interior Design Is Thanks To Jackie Kennedy

Courtesy of Kennedy Library Archives/Newsmakers
Courtesy of Kennedy Library Archives/Newsmakers

Jackie Kennedy was an incredibly fashionable woman, known for her great taste in both fashion and interior design. While credited for establishing certain fashion trends and decorating the White House, she is also attributed with designing the interior of Air Force One.

She chose the carpet, china, crystals, and even the silverware. The USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio has all of her original furnishings, although much of the airplane today is still based on her original designs.

Air Force One Doubles As An Airborne Command Center

LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images

Air Force One has some of the most high-tech satellite communications and defensive measures in the world. Much of the technology and satellite communications on board are kept secret in order to protect the plane during an attack.

However, the plane also has classified technology if it needs to fight back, although these secret weapons are unknown. The plane also has the abilities to command other air forces, although most of these commands will never be revealed.

They Keep It Stocked With The President’s Favorite Food

CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

It’s no surprise to learn that Air Force One is always kept stocked with the president’s favorite treats or food. In the case of Ronald Reagan, who was known as “The Jelly Bean President,” there was a fresh jar of jelly beans waiting for him every time he boarded the plane.

His love for jelly beans came from when he was given some while touring the White House as a young boy. He later said, “I didn’t know then, but the jelly beans were much more than a sweet treat, they represented the uniqueness and greatness of America.” That’s high praise for a candy!

There Are Three Presidential Planes

TORSTEN SILZ/AFP/Getty Images
TORSTEN SILZ/AFP/Getty Images

Because one presidential plane might be too exposed to those who would do it harm, there are actually two Air Force Ones. However, only one of them is the real deal and transports the president.

They fly together so that nobody can tell which one the president is in. There is also a jet called “The Gulfstream” which supposedly trails the other two planes, although the government and Air Force deny its existence.

The “Doomsday Plane” Is Kept Top Secret

Doomsday Aircraft
YouTube
YouTube

Protecting the President of the United States and high-ranking officials is of the utmost importance when traveling. For this reason, Air Force One has backup protection known as the “Doomsday Plane” with the call sign E-4B.

The planes follow behind Air Force One, and is designed to stay in the air for days if the need arises. The only function of this plane is to protect Air Force One, should the aircraft come into danger. Exactly what it looks like is kept top secret. The US and Russia are the only countries known to have design aircraft for this purpose.

George Bush Senior Banned Something On The Plane

Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

During his presidency, H.W. Bush banned a few things. For one, he banned broccoli from the White House, as well as on board Air Force One. He claimed that he didn’t want the vegetable anywhere near anything that his chefs were cooking for him.

As you can imagine, being an order from the President of the United States, you wouldn’t see so much as a stem of broccoli on the airplane or being consumed by anyone near the president.

President Ford Always Managed To Sneak His Favorite Drink On

David Hume Kennerly/ Getty Images
David Hume Kennerly/ Getty Images

Even though Coors beer could only be legally sold in select states, President Ford always made sure that he had plenty of it when he went to visit states where it wasn’t available.

Even if they ran out, they made sure some got on board somehow before he entered the plane to leave. Apparently, Eisenhower was a big fan of the beer as well and was known to have it stocked in his personal refrigerators on Air Force One.

Donald Trump’s Private Jet And Air Force One

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

In classic Trump fashion, Donald Trump decided that he needed his own airplane to put Air Force One to shame. So, he bought a jetliner that he calls The “Trump Force One.” The aircraft is a 757 that was bought from Microsoft’s Paul Allen.

It is lined in gold plating and covered in the Trump family crest. He has revealed that “it’s bigger than Air Force One,” with Rolls-Royce engines and seating for 43. The plane was featured on the Discovery Channel and called the “world’s most luxurious jetliner.”

It’s A Flying Fortress

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

While Air Force One is a convenient way for the president and their family and guests to reach necessary destinations, it’s also extremely safe. Every window on their aircraft is heavily armored and is resistant to bullets and explosions. In addition, the aircraft is equipped with flares that can be released in order to confuse incoming enemy missiles.

In order to prevent sabotage, the plane also has its own retractable staircase that can only be opened from within in order to eliminate total reliance on airport staircases.

There’s No Shortage Of TVs

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Air Force One has twenty TVs on board. Each TV is strategically placed throughout the plane so that passengers are able to see one at any given time. While this may seem like overkill, this is mostly for the president, press, and staff that need to constantly stay up to date with breaking news and broadcasts.

When it comes to being president, flying on an airplane is no excuse to not know what’s going on around the world at all times.

The Age Of The Plane Is Causing Issues

ELIANA APONTE/AFP/Getty Images
ELIANA APONTE/AFP/Getty Images

According to a report, both Planes with the call sign Air Force One are highly customized Boeing 747-200B jets. The two planes were purchased under the Reagan administration, although they didn’t go into service until 1990 under George H.W.’s administration.

However, since the planes have been in use, Boeing has stopped all production of its 747-200 style jet. Because of this, replacement parts have become increasingly more difficult to come by. At times, parts have even been salvaged from other condemned planes.

Planning For The Future

Michel Porro/Getty Images
Michel Porro/Getty Images

With the increasing problems of finding the right parts for the current Air Force One fleet, it was decided that a new set of planes were needed. During President Obama’s term, an order was placed for two replacements to the fleet.

The new planes were built based on the new Boeing 747-8 series, a newer version than the previous styles. Both planes are estimated to cost at least $3 billion to make, and won’t come into service until well into 2024.

State-Of-The-Art Refrigerators

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

The American public was shocked when they heard this news about some new additions to Air Force One. It was reported that Air Force One was in need of new refrigerators. No big deal, right? Well, it turns out that they cost $12 million each. Boeing is now in charge of the design and engineering of these refrigerators.

While this may sound over-the-top, the reasoning is that in case of an emergency, the plane needs to be able to feed the passengers and crew for weeks on end without having to resupply.

It’s Always In Perfect Condition

Popow/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Popow/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Given the importance of Air Force One, it’s constantly being worked on to make sure that it is in the best condition possible at all times. This is in order to make the plane as safe as possible, as well as to keep up appearances.

Other than keeping the plane looking clean both inside and out, there is a group of contractors in charge of checking every inch of the plane, even chemically testing the fuel that goes into it. When not in use, the planes are heavily guarded in a hangar outside of Washington, DC.

Cutting Back On Expenses

ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images
ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

There’s no denying that Air Force One is incredibly costly to run. In the 2016 fiscal year alone, it was estimated to cost $180,000 per hour of use. Because of the high cost, lawmakers have been asking for presidents to take into account what is really necessary to have on board and see if they can cut back on unnecessary spending.

However, the discussion of what is considered frivolous spending on Air Force One is no new argument and will surely continue for the foreseeable future.

Frequent Fliers

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images
Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

When the president travels on Air Force One, he rarely does so without his usual team of people. More often than not, he is joined by senior aids, national security, along with economic, and domestic advisers. It is also well known that presidents tend to travel with a group of press members as well.

The press members provide updates on the president’s travels so he doesn’t go rogue while traveling. Altogether, there are around 13 people joining the president on each of his trips.

The Beast

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

The presidential vehicle is known as “The Beast,” and goes wherever the president goes, without exception. This is so that the Secret Service will be able to protect the president as best as possible during vehicular transport.

When the president exits Air Force One, “The Beast” is there waiting for him to take him wherever he is going next. The vehicle is sent ahead of the president by military cargo plane. This is so the car is already there well before the president even arrives.

Air Force One Has A Long History

Flight/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Flight/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Although some people believe otherwise, Air Force One has actually been around for many decades. The concept behind Air Force One was headed by Franklin D. Roosevelt during his presidency. He formed the Presidential Pilot Office, which became the Presidential Airlift Group in 1944. During that time, those planes were mostly propeller-driven.

It wasn’t until JFK’s administration that a president flew in a jet decked out in the Air Force One white and blue color scheme. JFK’s airplane was a modified Boeing 707 jet which has been changed numerous times since.

Keeping Up With The Times

Terry Fincher/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Terry Fincher/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

The consistent ordering of new planes to serve as Air Force One is not a new concept. Since the first presidential planes, administrations have continued to place orders for faster, sleeker, and newer models. This goes for the entire Air Force, not necessarily just Air Force One.

The biggest problem this creates, however, is meeting the technical requirements for a plane to be suitable for use by the president. After years of debate, the Air Force finally announced that Boeing would be their exclusive manufacturer in the future.

Following The Rules

Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Although the president has the power to chose the type of aircraft they want to serve as their Air Force One, they don’t get to change the standards of the airplane or the requirements that it’s expected to meet.

The purchase of a plane must be made within the second term of the sitting president so that the president is actually prevented from using the plane they chose. Therefore, they’re essentially ordering an airplane for future presidents. Presidents such as Eisenhower, Reagan, and Obama, have set aside money in their second term for future planes.

Bill Clinton’s Haircut Debaucle

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Something that got Bill Clinton into a little trouble was when he decided to get a haircut aboard Air Force One. However, the issue was that he got a haircut when the airplane was stationary at LAX. By doing this, it caused a major problem for outgoing and incoming aircraft.

Air Traffic controllers were scrambling trying to make sure that no other planes were coming and going during his haircut, creating a huge mess. It also caused a major frustration among passengers whose flights were then delayed.

There’s Assigned Seating

Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images
Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images

Believe it or not, there is actually assigned sitting for the passengers riding on Air Force One. Assigned seating is not new, nor is it set in stone. Each administration tends to create their own rules with regards to who sits where on the airplane.

Although it’s not required, it’s a tradition that every president has participated in since the establishment of Air Force One. Most seats are reserved for press pool passengers and the Secret Service, with the president and his advisers having their own area.

Keeping The President Occupied

KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images
KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images

Of course, when they’re not busy running the country on Air Force One, presidents have to find ways to preoccupy themselves. In the case of Bill Clinton, he liked to bring his saxophone and his love for jazz onto the aircraft.

Apparently, it wasn’t uncommon for the former president to whip out his saxophone and play some music on his longer flights. Some sources claim that his bad hearing often caused him to play extra loud.

The Right Of Way

Artyom GeodakyanTASS via Getty Images
Artyom GeodakyanTASS via Getty Images

While flying, Air Force One has the right of way — no questions asked. The plane has priority over all of the airspace in the country and also in various parts of the world. The pilots never have to worry about crowded airspace because it’s all shut down in any area that they’re flying through.

Before the plane even takes off, all the airspace ahead is cleared. The same applies whether the plane is either departing or landing. For this reason, the plane usually lands at military air bases.

You Can’t Miss It

Education Images/UIG via Getty Images
Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

You’ll know that you’re looking at Air Force One when you see it. It has unmistakable blue, white, silver, and gold painting and is hand polished nearly every day. It’s a beautiful aircraft that catches the eye of all who see it.

The airplane must always look in top condition because it is a symbol of America and the president who is riding in it. The status of the plane is also a symbol of the United State’s military and economic power and is unmatched for the most part.

Air Force One Has Seen Incredible Moments In History

Bettmann/CORBIS/Bettmann Archive
Bettmann/CORBIS/Bettmann Archive

Countless historical moments have occurred aboard Air Force One. In 1974, presidential leadership was turned over when Richard Nixon transferred the power of the presidency over to Gerald Ford.

This was an incredible moment in American history and it took place on Air Force One. In addition, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the 36th President of the United States aboard Air Force One after the assassination of John F. Kennedy that same day.

The Time That Air Force One Wasn’t Used

Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Air Force One is supposed to be the one and only form of air travel for the President of the United States, and that’s that. However, during Nixon’s presidency, he tried to send a political-economic message to the people and traveled using United Airlines.

Even though he was trying to send a good message, his decision was not appreciated by his administration and fellow representatives. Since he was not traveling on Air Force One, the plane he was using was given the call sign of Executive One.

Lockheed C-5 Galaxy

Galaxy
Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The C-5 Galaxy is an absolutely incredible plane that provides the U.S. Air Force with a heavy intercontinental airlift capable of carrying oversized loads with ease.

It’s one of the largest military aircraft in the world and is extremely expensive to build. The cheapest model of the C-5 goes for around $100.37 million and can range up to about $224.29 million. It still remains active today but was originally introduced in 1970.

Antonov An-124

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Wikimedia / Bushman787
Wikimedia / Bushman787

The 226-foot aircraft was built by the Antonov Design Bureau in the 1980s and has since become synonymous in both military and commercial aviation. There was more than 50 of them produced and used around the world.

It was a strategic airlift quad-jet that was the heaviest cargo airplane for thirty years and the second-heaviest cargo aircraft in the world. It was surpassed by the Antonov AN-225 which you’ll be able to read about very shortly.

HK-1

HK 1
Frederic Lewis/Getty Images
Frederic Lewis/Getty Images

The HK 1, or the “Spruce Goose” as it was more widely known because it was made almost entirely out of birch, was originally meant to be a transatlantic transport aircraft during the Second World War. The only problem was that it wasn’t finished in time to actually be put into service.

The U.S. military ended up only flying it once in 1947 and only one prototype was ever built. It’s now on display at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.

Blohm & Voss BV 238

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Twitter / @lasungundaguerra
Twitter / @lasungundaguerra

The Blohm and Voss BV 238 was a German flying boat built during World War II. At the time, it was the heaviest aircraft ever when it first flew in 1944. The BV 238 had an empty weight of 120,769 pounds, but only one was ever built because of the resources it took to put it together.

It holds the title of being the largest aircraft produced by any of the Axis powers during the war as well.

Antonov AN-225 Mriya

AN
Paul Kane/Getty Images
Paul Kane/Getty Images

This strategic airlift cargo aircraft is powered by six turbofan engines and is the longest and heaviest plane ever built.

It was originally developed to transport the Buran spaceplane for the USSR in the 80s. It can take off with a maximum weight of 640 tons and has the longest wingspan of any aircraft at the time it was built, and out of any current operational aircraft in the world.

Ilyushin Il-76

Ily
Marina LystsevaTASS via Getty Images
Marina LystsevaTASS via Getty Images

This aircraft was built during the tensest moments of the Cold War and still remains active to this day. In fact, there are 1,000 of them in operation around the world.

Originally developed for the USSR, the Ilyushin II-76 was a multi-purpose, four-engine turbofan airlifter that was supposed to be a commercial freighter but ended up being adopted by the Russian military. It’s capable of delivering some of the heaviest machinery and military vehicles in the world.

Convair B-36 Peacemaker

Peace
Universal History Archive/ UIG via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/ UIG via Getty Images

The Convair B-36 Peacemaker was operated by the United States Air Force from 1949 until 1959. It had a fairly short lifespan, but still remains the largest mass-produced piston-engined aircraft ever built.

It had the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft ever built at 230 ft. The B-36 was special in that it was capable of delivering any nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenals at the time without any modifications. It ended up being replaced by the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress near the end of the 50s.

Boeing C-17 Globemaster III

Globe
Marina LystsevaTASS via Getty Images
Marina LystsevaTASS via Getty Images

The C-17 Globemaster III is one of the biggest military planes to hit the skies. The Globemaster III was first delivered in 1991 and was produced up until 2015 before it was discontinued. The per-unit cost was about $218 million and was created by McDonnell Douglas.

It was used for strategic and tactical airlift missions that would often include airdrops of heavy machinery or people and immediate medical evacuations. This thing is an absolute beast.

Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI

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Twitter / @plaenut27
Twitter / @plaenut27

Let’s throw it back to World War I with the Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI which was one of the biggest wooden planes produced during the early 1900s. It was a four-engined strategic bomber that was built in Germany and had one of the earliest closed-cockpit in any military aircraft.

Only six of the 18 ended up even surviving the war as four were shot down, six others were destroyed in crashes and two others had technical difficulties.

Kawanishi H8K

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Twitter / @ron_eisele
Twitter / @ron_eisele

The Kawanishi H8K was an Imperial Japanese Navy flying boat used primarily for maritime patrol duties. It was an aircraft that was built for long flights over long ranges and it was usually flying solo without any backup over the ocean.

The Americans nicknamed the H8K “Emily” during the war. If you anyone said “Emily” over the radio it was always in reference to this patrolling plane. It wasn’t fully functional until the end of World War II as it didn’t see combat until 1942.

Convair XC-99

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Twitter / @historylvrsclub
Twitter / @historylvrsclub

It’s interesting to note that one of the biggest planes in the world is also one of the oldest. The Convair XC-99 had a design capacity of 100,000 lbs for 400 fully equipped soldiers on its double cargo decks. The XC-99 first took flight all the way back in 1947 and was retired in 1957.

The U.S. Air Force used it as a heavy cargo plane and it was the biggest piston-engined, land-based transport plane ever constructed.

Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules

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RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images
RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images

Any aircraft that has the word “Hercules” in the title, nevermind “Super Hercules,” is going to be a force to be reckoned with. The C-130J first took flight in 1996 for the U.S. Air Force and has since been delivered to 15 other nations who have placed orders.

It’s a four-engine turboprop transport plane that has been in continuous production longer than any other military aircraft in history. While this exact model is roughly two decades old, the Hercules family has been around for nearly six.

Martin JRM Mars

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Education Images/UIG via Getty Images
Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

The Martin JRM Mars is a four-engine seaplane that was popularized during World War II. It was the largest seaplane that was used by the Americans and other Allied forces during the War.

There were only seven of them built despite how impressive and effective they were. Four of the remaining flying boats transitioned into civilian use after the war was over. They turned into firefighting water bombers which made them even more useful. Those models have since been retired.

Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker

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aviation-images.com/UIG via Getty Images
aviation-images.com/UIG via Getty Images

There’s no easy way to refuel strategic bombers, but that’s exactly what the KC-135 Stratotanker’s task is. It was used a lot during the Vietnam War for the Americans and would become a huge strategic benefit in Operation Desert Storm.

It’s interesting to note that the KC-135 and the Boeing 707 were both developed from the same aircraft (the Boeing 367-80). The 136 ft aircraft became revolutionary in that it was the United States Air Force’s first ever jet-powered refueling tanker.

Caspian Sea Monster

ever-built--53448
Twitter / @strangecraft
Twitter / @strangecraft

The Caspian Sea Monster was developed by the Soviet Union in the 1960s and was continuously tested until 1980 when it was damaged in a testing accident. At the time, it was the largest and heaviest aircraft in the world for about 20 years.

During the Cold War, the U.S. had many missions that had the sole purpose of figuring out what the Sea Monster was capable of doing. It was nearly undetectable to many radar systems as it would consistently fly below the minimum altitude of detection. Despite being an aircraft, it was assigned to the Soviet Navy and operated by the Soviet Air Force.

Xian H-6 Bomber

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Marina LystsevaTASS via Getty Images
Marina LystsevaTASS via Getty Images

The H-6 Bomber was first delivered to the Chinese military in 1958 and has enjoyed quite an impressive and successful career. While the Chinese didn’t end up getting too much use out of it, the Iraqi and Egyptian Air Forces certainly did. In fact, the Iraqi Air Force retired the plane in 1991, while the Egyptian Air Force would retire the plane in 2000.

It’s a variation of the Tupolev Tu-16 twin-engine bomber that was originally built for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

Boeing E-3 Sentry

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Pinterest
Pinterest

The Boeing E-3 Sentry is an American airborne early warning and control aircraft. It’s used by the U.S. Air Force to provide all-weather surveillance, command, control, communications and constant updates.

The E-3 is distinguished by distinctive rotating radar domes above the fuselage. There was 68 of these built before they stopped production in 1992. The radars used pulse-Doppler technology which played a crucial role in directing coalition aircraft against the enemy in Operation Desert Storm.

NASA Super Guppy

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Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images
Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

This was the very first aircraft to be made by Aero Spacelines. The plane was designed for cargo, which should be pretty obvious just by having a quick glance. It was the successor to the Pregnant Guppy, and all Super Guppys currently remain in service.

There have been five planes built in two different variants of the Guppy aircraft which have been referred to as “Super Guppy.” It’s pretty obvious how it got its name, so we won’t even go there.

Junkers JU-390

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Twitter / @classicwarbirds
Twitter / @classicwarbirds

The Junkers JU 390 holds a unique place in the heavy military aircraft category. The German-built plane only flew for two years during World War II (1943-1945) for the Luftwaffe. It had six engines which made the design pretty iconic and was the reason this aircraft has a unique place in military history.

The JU-390 was meant to serve as a heavy transport aircraft, a long-range bomber and a patrol plane for the Germans. It was revolutionary for the time.

Boeing B-52 Stratofortress

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aviation-images.com/UIG via Getty Images
aviation-images.com/UIG via Getty Images

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is an American, long-range, jet-powered, strategic bomber. It has been in use by the United States Air Force since the 1950s and has the capability to carry up to 70,000 pounds of weapons. Without the need to refuel, the bomber can travel up to 8,800 miles.

Originally built to carry nuclear warheads during the Cold War, it replaced the Convair B-36. The plane has remained active in service since 1955 and as of 2015, 58 were still in active service with 18 in reserve.