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The Next Air Force One Will Be A Boeing 747-8

Air Force One, carrying President Obama, passes a Boeing building in Seattle. The Air Force has announced that the next Air Force One will also be a Boeing aircraft.

The Air Force has picked a new Air Force One, the Boeing 747-8, and it wasn't even a close race. In a statement announcing the pick, the Air Force said the decision was made "through a Determinations and Findings document, which "authorizes the commercial aircraft purchase by other than full and open competition."

Even though there wasn't a bidding war for the choice of plane, the Air Force did say that the decision came down to the Boeing 747-8, which is made in Washington state, and the Airbus A380, which is made in Toulouse, France. The Air Force said those two planes were the only four-engine, wide-body aircraft that could meet the needs of the Air Force One mission.

The current Air Force One is a customized Boeing 747-200B series. The Air Force designation for the plane is VC-25A.

The Air Force did point out, though, that Wednesday's announcement does not mean that the new Air Force One decision is a done deal:

" 'This decision is not a contract award to procure 747-8 aircraft,' said Col. Amy McCain, the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) program manager. 'We still need to finalize the overall acquisition strategy and conduct risk-reduction activities with Boeing to inform the engineering and manufacturing development contract negotiations that will define the capabilities and cost.' "

Reuters reports the decision may have been rushed by Boeing's recent announcement that it "would slow production of the four-engine 747-8 aircraft to 1.3 a month from 1.5 a month because of declining orders."

The White House Air Force One website has more details on just what Air Force One planes can do:

"Capable of refueling midair, Air Force One has unlimited range and can carry the President wherever he needs to travel. The onboard electronics are hardened to protect against an electromagnetic pulse, and Air Force One is equipped with advanced secure communications equipment, allowing the aircraft to function as a mobile command center in the event of an attack on the United States."

The White House says the current Air Force One plane has more than 4,000 square feet of floor space, a medical suite that can be used as an operating room, and two food preparation galleys that can feed 100 people at a time.

Air Force One planes are expected to have a 30-year life.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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