Biden Dumps Trump’s Air Force One Paint Job For Iconic Design

Biden has picked a livery for the new Air Force One jets in line with the existing Kennedy-era design over Trump’s red, white, and blue one.

byJoseph Trevithick|
U.S. Homeland photo


The U.S. Air Force's two future VC-25B presidential aircraft will wear a paint scheme more in line with the iconic ones on the existing VC-25A Air Force Ones. President Joe Biden's decision on the paint job reverses one made by his predecessor, Donald Trump, which would have seen the aircraft wear an entirely new red, white, and blue livery.


The Secretary of the Air Force's Public Affairs Office announced the decision on the VC-25B's paint job today and provided specifics on how it differs from the VC-25A's scheme. The current Air Force One livery dates back to President John F. Kennedy's administration. The core scheme was created by the legendary designer Raymond Loewy at the urging of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

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"While accounting for the VC-25B's larger 747-8i aircraft, the VC-25B livery has three primary differences with the VC-25A’s livery. The light blue on VC-25B is a slightly deeper, more modern tone than VC-25A's robin's egg blue," according to the Air Force's press release. "Additionally, the VC-25B engines will use the darker blue from the cockpit area vice the VC-25A’s robin’s egg blue. Finally, there is no polished metal section on the VC-25B because modern commercial aircraft skin alloys don't allow for it."

As noted, the VC-25Bs are being converted from 747-8i airliners, as you can read more about here. The -8i was the final airliner variant of Boeing's iconic 747 aircraft. The existing VC-25As, which entered service in 1990, are based on older 747-200s. The last 747-200 rolled off Boeing's line in 1987 and production of the 747 series, as a whole, came to end for good in December 2022.

The age of the underlying 747s has been a major contributing factor to the increasing costs and difficulties associated with operating and maintaining the VC-25As. These aircraft, as well as the successor, are, of course, heavily modified to perform their core mission of transporting the President of the United States, their closest advisors, and their family, among others. The average per-hour flight cost to operate either of the two VC-25As was $177,843 in Fiscal Year 2021.

"The Air Force previously displayed a red, white, and blue livery for the VC-25B because it had been publicly expressed as a preferred livery in 2019. A thermal study later concluded the dark blue in the design would require additional Federal Aviation Administration qualification testing for several commercial components due to the added heat in certain environments," the Air Force's press release says by way of explanation for the change away from Trump's proposed scheme.

A rendering of a VC-25B with the livery President Trump had selected. Boeing

"A formal contractual decision for a VC-25B livery was not required until this year for Boeing to conduct engineering, certification preparation, and supplier selection activities for the program," it adds.

"Aircraft paint and interiors are requirements within the $3.90B Firm Fixed-Price contract with Boeing to design, modify, test, certify, and deliver two Presidential, mission-ready aircraft," Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek had told The War Zone back in January 2021. "Paint and interiors are not specifically priced within the contract."

The War Zone also previously submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request for "Phase II Aircraft Livery and Paint Study Final Report" that the Boeing company reportedly produced in relation to the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program and provided to the U.S. government in 2017. That 403-page document was withheld from release under Section 130 of Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which exempts the release of "certain technical data" covered by separate export control laws in certain circumstances.

The paint scheme for the VC-25Bs was just one aspect of President Trump's mercurial relationship with the Air Force One replacement program. He was famously against it entirely as a presidential candidate and as President-Elect, calling for it to be canceled entirely, before changing course after claiming to have secured a better deal with Boeing. There remains no hard evidence of any substantial cost savings resulting from a direct meeting between Trump and then-Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg in 2018.

A model of a future VC-25B Air Force One aircraft sits on a table in the White House during a visit by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet with then-President Donald Trump. Evan Vucci/AP

Trump unveiled the red, white, and blue scheme for the future VC-25Bs in 2019, a livery that drew some comparisons to the ones carried by his personal jets. The War Zone noted at the time that it gave off an appearance similar to the liveries used by a number of airlines in the United States and elsewhere around the world.

After President Biden took office in January 2021, the matter of the Air Force One paint scheme became a hot topic of conversion, much to the irritation of the White House Press Office. Then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on January 22, 2021, that "Biden hasn't spent a moment thinking about the color of Air Force One."

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At a subsequent press conference in February, Psaki seemed to blow off a question about Space Force, derisively saying the topic was "the plane of the day," an apparent reference to the Air Force One paint questions.

Biden clearly has spent some time since then thinking about the paint scheme for the future VC-25Bs.

When the new Air Force Ones will actually enter service remains to be seen. The program, the full cost of which also has to factor in the price of a new specialized hangar facility, is staggeringly expensive. It has also been controversial in ways that have nothing to do with Trump and has been beset by delays. The original plan had been for these jets to enter service in 2024. That schedule had already slipped to 2026 for the first aircraft and 2027 for the second one.

"VC-25B deliveries are projected for 2027 for the first aircraft and 2028 for the second aircraft," the Air Force's press release today slips in at the end. "The Air Force remains postured to keep VC-25A available and mission-ready until delivery of the VC-25B."

Unless something changes again, when the VC-25Bs do finally arrive, they will be wearing a paint scheme that continues the legacy of the Kennedy-era livery that has become synonymous with Air Force One.

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