National Geographic Lifts Veil on Air Force One

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The documentary describes how all the U.S. armed services are involved in moving the President around the country. It focuses on the officer who carries the "football," or briefcase that contains the launch codes and authority for the President to launch nuclear-tipped missiles in the event of an attack against the United States.

Former crew members and passengers, including several ex-Presidents, share anecdotes about life on board.

Daily Routines

Two kitchens in Air Force One turn out gourmet meals, including birthday cakes when needed. The President may sleep in a full-size bed, relax on a sofa, take a shower, or work behind a desk.

A special communications compartment enables the President and other officials to make encrypted phone calls to anywhere on Earth. During the film viewers learn that in one such call, former President Clinton called a friend who was driving on a freeway.

Former Presidents Carter, Bush, and Clinton have fond memories of Air Force One, Schnall said.

"The plane, to them, really represents a place where they can be themselves, relax and get away from the demands of the White House and the Oval Office," Schnall explained. "Former President Bush would sometimes go to Andrews Air Force Base the night before the flight, get on board, go to sleep on the airplane, and wake up in the air."

Viewers learn that Air Force One is a powerful diplomatic and political tool that Presidents use frequently to influence votes in Congress or to impress international allies and foes. It may be the hardest perk for Presidents to give up when they leave office.

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