How much does it cost to operate Air Force One? Even having worked in the White House a decade ago, I was shocked to see the numbers.
With the President making weekly trips to Florida, NPR has a story this weekend on Air Force One costs. It seems to be a familiar game in Washington — the opposition party decides the President’s use of Air Force One has an unnecessary drain on taxpayer money. Republicans condemned President Obama for his trips to Hawaii and now Democrats are condemning President Trump for his trips to Florida.
Let’s not play politics here. But we can talk about numbers and perhaps discuss in a bi-partisan basis if there are any better viable alternatives.
Air Force One costs $140,000 per flying hour. A weekend trip to Florida will cost over $1MN taxpayer dollars.
The exact number is classified, but government watchdog groups have come to general consensus that the above number is the lower-limit. Some put the number as high as $200,000 per hour and an extra aircraft is ferried on longhaul trips.
Why is Air Force One so Expensive?
A normal 747 costs between $24K-27K per hour to operate. There is a magic blend of fuel that is driving up a cost. But the modified 747-200 used as Air Force One has some additional bells and whistles, including—
- Midair-refueling capability
- Missile-defense systems
- Electronic countermeasure defense systems
- An operating room
- The ability survive the electromagnetic pulse emitted from a nuclear detonation
- The communications capabilities to manage a wartime crisis from anywhere in the world
But there are other costs: the flight crew (Air Force pilots and flight attendants), Secret Service, food, drink, Marine One helicopter, armored limos, and maintenance crews. The limos, for examples are transported on cargo planes. The cost of that is factored into the hourly operating cost for Air Force One.
Is There A Cheaper Way?
Of course there is a cheaper way — the POTUS flies commercial like we do or at least on a small jet like when President Obama took his wife up to New York City for a dinner date. But running a government from a first class seat on United or American is probably not a good idea.
I’ll open it to discussion, but I don’t see a cheaper way other than making President’s pay for leisure trips out of campaign funds rather than taxpayer dollars. That addresses the source, not the cost though.