It is big, powerful can fly 7,140 miles without refueling. It has 85 telephones, 19 television monitors, 11 videocassette players, and the inside is painted in California earth tones that make it look as if it is ready to play host to Ronald Reagan rather than George Bush.
In fact, the new Air Force One -- a new jumbo Boeing 747-200 -- was supposed to return the Reagans to California on its first trip.
But yesterday, more than 20 months behind the original due date of November 1988, the president's new plane touched down for the first time at Andrews Air Force Base after a trip from Boeing Military Airplanes in Wichita, Kan., ready for Bush as soon as he gives the word.
"It's technically ready," Capt. George Sillia, an Air Force spokesman, said. "We could use it tomorrow if needed. It's ready to go."
The new plane will replace the Boeing 707 that has been used as primary Air Force One since it was delivered Aug. 4, 1972. The other 707, used as a backup, was delivered Oct. 12, 1962, and was first used by President John F. Kennedy, who developed the exterior color scheme that is still used on the new 747, along with the exterior wording ordered by Kennedy: "United States of America," with a U.S. flag on the vertical stabilizer.
A second 747 is still under construction, due for delivery on June 30, 1991, although Boeing spokeswoman Carolyn Russell said it was ahead of schedule and will be delivered "several months early."
The cost of the two new planes, a new hangar at Andrews, spare parts and a few other odds and ends was $410 million, under a fixed price contract signed in July 1986.
The original Air Force One was a four-engine piston-powered DC-4 first flown by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942. It was called the "Sacred Cow." The new 747 could be called the "Cost Overrun," because Boeing's costs ran many millions of dollars beyond the $262 million price of the two planes alone. However, under the Air Force contract, Boeing essentially took a financial bath on the extra expense.
Neither Boeing nor the Air Force would comment on the extra expense.
The plane can handle 70 passengers with a crew of 23, cruises at 560 mph at an altitude of 35,000 feet and can fly 7,140 miles without refueling. (The old 707s could go just 5,757 miles.) The new 747 holds 53,611 gallons of fuel when fully loaded and can be refueled while in flight.
"Look out world, here we come," White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater joked yesterday as he described the new plane to reporters in Kennebunkport, Maine, where Bush is on vacation.
Contrary to conventional expectations, the new 747 will not limit Bush to fewer of the world's airports. It can take off in 35 percent less runway length than the 707, although that would be affected by how much fuel and other gear might be loaded on any trip. Other considerations, such as the width of taxiways, could be limiting to a 747, but the new jet will not be subject to the noise limitations of the 707.
The 747 has far more power than a 707, with its four General Electric engines each producing 56,750 pounds of thrust compared to the 18,000 pounds of thrust for each of the 707's four Pratt & Whitney engines.
The delays in delivery were caused by a number of factors including changes ordered by the government, such as an updated fire suppression system ordered by the Federal Aviation Administration. However, one of the greatest problems in construction was wiring.
The new Air Force One has more than twice as much electrical wire as the average 747 -- 1.26 million feet versus 585,000 feet. What's more, it was necessary to shield the wiring from the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear blast as well as to protect separate bundles of wire from electromagnetically interfering with each other.
The interior is larger and more comfortable than that of the current Air Force One. According to the Air Force, the executive suite includes a stateroom, dressing room and bathroom. The president also has a private office near the stateroom. There is also a dining room/conference room available, with enough telephones to allow everyone at the table to be on two conversations at once.
In addition, the new plane has separate accommodations for staff, Secret Service, guests and the press. The plane's galleys can serve up to 100 meals at a sitting.
The new 747 includes state-of-the-art communications equipment that provide the president with clear and secure voice and data communication worldwide.
Fitzwater said he did not know when Bush would make his first trip aboard the new plane.
Balz reported from Kennebunkport, Maine, and Phillips from Washington.