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Although the airplanes on which the President flies are owned by the USAF and are operated by the
89th Airlift Wing, the actual tasking for presidential missions comes from the White House Military Office (WHMO).
It is a little-known fact that there is no specific aircraft named "Air Force One".
As soon as the President steps on board an Air Force aircraft, its radio callsign changes to "Air Force One". When the President is not on board, the regular callsign of that aircraft is used for radio communication.
Likewise, if the President flies on a Marine aircraft (or helicopter), the callsign "Marine One" is used. The same naming convention applies to Army and Navy aircraft (Army One and Navy One respectively).
Over the years, the President has flown on a number of different aircraft types, currently a pair of nearly identical C–25A's (Boeing747–200B). However, this page's main focus is on those planes beign operated when I arrived at Andrews AFB in 1980 until I retired in 1994.
The first units specifically assigned to transport high-ranking government officials date from 1936 and were assigned to Bolling AFB, D.C.
In October 1948, the 1254th Air Transport Wing was established at Washington National Airport, D.C. (now Reagan National Airport). In 1961, the 1254th moved from Washington National to Andrews Air Force Base where it remained until its dissolution in January 1966.
The 89th MAW (Military Airlift Wing) (Special Missions) was created to take the 1254th's place. The wing held that designation until it was downsized to become a Group in September 1977 (a Group is a smaller Air Force entity than a Wing). In December 1980, the Group regained its Wing status and was again designated the 89th MAW.
In July 1991, the 89th MAW merged with the 1776th Air Base Wing, with the new unit retaining the 89th Airlift Wing name. Currently, the wing is an Air Mobility Command asset which falls under the jurisdiction of the 18th Air Force, headquartered at Scott AFB, IL.
Further information on the 89th Airlift Wing may be obtained from the
Andrews AFB Public Affairs Office web site.
The complete history of the 89th Airlift Wing is available at:
Global Security.org - 89th Airlift Wing