Will it happen or won’t it? President Trump decided that Air Force One was in need of a makeover in July 2018 and his vision includes a major new paint job to the plane’s exterior, along with some gold-plated fixtures. Trump has visions of a super-patriotic look to this iconic American symbol recognized around the world.
Trump personally sat down with the CEO of Boeing, Dennis Muilenburg, to make sure the best deal was negotiated for two 747s slated to replace the Air Force One currently in use. It was a $4 billion sale for the pair of them. The look of the current plane, though, is apparently too dated for POTUS. Air Force One has looked the same since the early 1960s when Jackie Kennedy and her husband, President John F. Kennedy, approved the exterior paint design colors of baby blue and white. (Technically the name is luminous ultramarine.) Trump wants a bold red, white, and blue design.
At the time of original news reports of the anticipated changes, some critics squawked about changing Air Force One. It’s understandable. But the president does, in fact, have the option of making changes to the new plane. Historian Michael Beschloss described the historical nostalgia attached to Air Force One.
“Every time you see that blue trim and the words ‘UNITED STATES OF AMERICA’ spelled out in that same typeface as an early version of the Declaration of Independence, it brings back JFK landing in Germany to speak at the Berlin Wall, Richard Nixon flying to China, Ronald Reagan stepping off the plane to see Gorbachev in Iceland and a thousand other scenes of Presidents in our past.”
“JFK and Jackie Kennedy approved that timeless design (created pro bono by the premier mid-20th century industrial designer Raymond Loewy) to replace an earlier version of Air Force One that had simply said ‘MILITARY AIR TRANSPORT SERVICE’ and which made conspicuous use of the color orange, which Kennedy rightfully found ‘gaudy.’”
Change is hard and altering the looks of such a well-known symbol of America will not be readily embraced. President Trump showed ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos some images of the revamped plane. It looks quite tasteful, truth be told. The top half is white, followed by a thick red stripe, and the rest is dark blue. There are no gaudy touches to be found in the design.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 13, 2019
During a long hearing in the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday, Rep. Joe Courtney slowed down the process by introducing an amendment limiting funds for changes. The vote on the amendment was along party lines.
Courtney’s amendment, adopted by committee members on a 31-26 party line vote, would require congressional approval for excessive spending on “interior, paint and fixtures.”
During the debate on his amendment, Courtney assured his colleagues that his intention was not to keep the president or the Air Force from making modifications on Air Force One, but to make sure there was no excessive growth in costs or delays in schedule from last-minute design changes — and that the look of the plane remains traditional.
“We are not handcuffing the Air Force and Boeing,” Courtney said. “There is some flexibility.”
Courtney also said “additional paint can add weight to the plane, additional fixtures inside the plane can also add cost and delays to the delivery of the plane.”
In other words, Democrats want to keep the original design that harkens back to the days of JFK and Republicans say the pushback is all about denying President Trump his vision of a redesigned look. This is what happens to everything during the Trump administration and it gets tiresome. I admit I am perfectly content to keep the old design. The new design, though, isn’t bad and it certainly doesn’t approach any of the original concerns voiced by anti-Trumpers. They were fully expecting a Las Vegas-style version of Air Force One. This new design will not be the end of the world and could move effortlessly into future administrations.
Friday morning during a phone-in interview with the hosts of Fox and Friends, Trump was asked about the new paint job. He said, “I think it would fit the new plane better.” He referenced the baby blue color as a “Jackie O” color while he spoke up for First Lady Melania Trump, ignored by fashion and women’s magazines around the world like no other recent First Lady has been. “We have our own Jackie O today.” He called his wife “Melania T.”
“I know,” Trump says a bit apologetically when asked if he’s committed to new colors for AF1. Says it’s time for red, white and blue. Jackie O was behind the robin’s egg blue color, but now there’s a new first lady, “Melania T,” he says in Fox News telephone interview. https://t.co/YOZU0bWHJg
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) June 14, 2019
The new presidential jets are not scheduled to enter service until late 2024 or early 2025, so Trump will have to win re-election to use them. Even then, he will not have much time to do so. It will be future presidents who fly in the new jets.
I’ll end with this thought about “Melania T.” Melania Trump is a very savvy woman. Not only is she stunningly beautiful and intelligent, she represents America well both domestically and overseas in her role as First Lady. She uses fashion diplomacy to her advantage. I’ve written about it previously and it was never more apparent than on Inauguration Day 2017. Knowing that her outfit would be scrutinized by fashionistas around the world, she chose to wear a designer ensemble (Ralph Lauren) in the style and color choice of Jackie Kennedy. It isn’t happening now because of the epidemic of Trump Derangement Syndrome but, politics aside, Melania Trump will be written up as more fashionable and elegant than Jackie Kennedy ever was in future comparisons of First Ladies.