New color scheme unveiled for Air Force One drops Trump's design

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The US Air Force unveiled a new color scheme for the new Air Force One jets under construction on Friday, doing away with the darker red, white, and blue chosen by former President Donald Trump and opting for a modernized version of the classic design of the president’s aircraft.

The color scheme also scraps the design Trump wanted for Air Force One, which featured a deep red stripe down the middle of the aircraft and a dark blue underbelly. It was confirmed that Trump’s preferred color scheme had been rejected last year because it would require additional engineering, increasing the time it would take to build and the cost of the aircraft, which has already suffered numerous delays. The dark blue paint threatened to overheat sophisticated electronic components on board and would have required additional Federal Aviation Administration qualification testing, the Air Force said.

Instead, the “Next Air Force One,” as it’s known, will feature largely the same colors as the aircraft it is replacing, with one subtle exception. Renderings provided first to CNN show the shade of blue around the nose and engines of the aircraft will be a darker color than the current robin’s egg blue. The overall scheme stays true to the design Air Force One has sported since President John F. Kennedy was in the White House 60 years ago.

This rendering shows the Air Force One color scheme.

A model of President Donald Trump's proposed redesign of Air Force One on display in the Oval Office of the White House in October 2019.

According to the Air Force, President Joe Biden had to select the new livery so that Boeing could conduct engineering, certification preparation, and more for the VC-25B aircraft, which is a modified 747-8i. These steps will occur as Boeing is also modifying and testing the fleet of two aircraft currently under construction.

The first VC-25B is scheduled to be delivered in 2027, while the second will come one year later. The newly selected paint scheme and implementation will not add to the cost of the program, the Air Force said.

Boeing struck the deal to make the two new planes in 2018 with then-President Trump. At the time, Trump asked for the planes to be ready by 2021, but the project has faced a series of delays.

Trump heralded his decision to go with a patriotic color scheme when he announced the deal in 2018.

“Air Force One is going to be incredible,” Trump told CBS at the time. “It’s going to be the top of the line, the top in the world. And it’s going to be red, white and blue, which I think is appropriate.”

A number of factors, including the Covid-19 pandemic, manpower shortages and design timelines contributed to the delays that piled up on the project.

This November 2013 photo shows Special Air Mission (SAM) 26000, President John F. Kennedy's Air Force One, on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in the Presidential Gallery in Dayton, Ohio.

After running into a host of issues while building the planes, the deal proved to be a regrettable one for the airline builder, with Boeing CEO David Calhoun saying last year that the $3.9 billion contract that Boeing signed to build the planes was a mistake for the company, given the losses it incurred. He said the 2018 deal with the Air Force included “a very unique set of risks that Boeing probably shouldn’t have taken.” The former president, with his deal-making persona, took an unusually hands-on approach to the Air Force One deal. He personally met with Boeing big-wigs at the White House to seal the deal.