Air Force One is a symbol of American power. The 747’s presence, grandeur, and mythical stature never ceases to captivate audiences (even when co-starring with Harrison Ford). But despite Air Force One’s almost omnipotent qualities, I really don’t know the yearly cost of the plane. In my article on the operating expenses of the White House, I quoted Kenneth Walsh’s (low) 2002 estimate in the Washington Post of $200 million a year. The cost is probably far higher now, as Walsh's figure fails to account for any measures aimed at beefing up security after September 11 and the rise in fuel prices since 2002.
More recent estimates suggest that Air Force One costs $68,000 an hour (mostly for fuel), but the yearly costs to operate the two 833,000 pound behemoths (yes, the president has two of them) are still a mystery. One of the problems with calculating the cost is that part of the expense depends on the total travel hours, personnel costs, backup aircraft, and sometimes even ground transportation. All of this can get pretty pricey. In 2000, one of Clinton’s week long trips to Asia cost an estimated $63 million. Sometimes these costs are lumped in with Air Force One’s budget, and sometimes they’re not. Many of the costs are also classified, which makes them difficult to determine.
Since 2002, Jet fuel prices have gone up about twenty per cent, so if I had to estimate, I would guess that Air Force One's yearly operating expenses are somewhere between $240-280 million (though even this estimate might be far too low).
Photo by Kris Klop.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
By Stephen M.