Air Force One about to land at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Air Force One has been an iconic aircraft since before I was born (not caring who was onboard, of course). Yes, I know that any aircraft carrying the U.S. President is called Air Force One, but I am talking about the two VC-25As – built off the Boeing 747-200 – that typically fly the president around the world. Those two planes (registration SAM 28000 and SAM 29000) not only represent the office of the president, but also our entire nation. In some ways, it says who we are as a people and how we want other nations to see us. Our country is also in the process of upgrading Air Force One to a pair of Boeing 747-8 Intercontinentals, called the VC-25B. You can probably look up dates when they might be finished, but I am willing to bet that the aircraft will be delayed.

I have also always been interested in the types of aircraft that other world leaders use for official duties around the world. Does it say something about their people? Their economies? Embargoes? Or what they might find cool and interesting? In this story I wanted to share in photos some of those aircraft. I am for sure not going to hit everyone, just those that I find the most interesting. Some leaders have an entire fleet of aircraft, while others might lease commercial aircraft from other countries to act as their state planes. The lines can often get blurred, but there are some interesting ones out there! I am not trying to make any political statements on why one state might run a fleet of wide-bodies, while another has a Cessna 152.

A C-32, based on the Boeing 757 – Photo: Jacob Pfleger

As you are looking through them… think about which aircraft you would want if you were a world leader. Sure, the Boeing 747 or Airbus A380 might seem like an easy choice for those who want to show off a bit, but not all airports can handle those big gals… hence why the U.S. has quite the fleet, including Boeing 757s (aka C-32), 737s (aka C-40), and many other aircraft at their disposal. Here we go!

A very unusual picture for 2020: remember the days when we all could just pack into one place without a care in the world? Well, this photo is from Zigermeet 2019, a very well-attended airshow.

A year ago, no one would ever have thought what changes COVID-19 would force upon us in 2020. The airshow industry was hit very hard, with nearly all American airshows being canceled, and only a handful able to adapt to a drive-in style which allowed for ample social distancing. And it sure will be interesting to see how the 2021 airshow season will look like. What will the new normal be? Maybe more of the drive-in style shows? Time will tell. But it will definitely be a while before we are back to the “good old days” of massive crowds all packed together.

Speaking of airshows, since I have not been able to attend a single airshow this year, let’s look back at an airshow I attended during my vacation in Switzerland last summer.

What exactly is the Zigermeet? It is the name of an airshow in Switzerland. Ziger is a byproduct from the process of making cheese. And meet, as in meeting or get together. The Ziger comes from the area of the Glarus Region in Switzerland, which is approximately a 65km or 40 mile drive south east of Zurich. The town of Mollis has an airport and that is where the Zigermeet 2019 airshow was held on August 16-17, 2019.

Many years ago the first Zigermeet airshow was a very small event,  more like of a get together/fly-in of aviation enthusiasts. But over the years, the show kept growing, and with 2019 the Zigermeet became the largest airshow in Switzerland. Friday was considered a training day, with about 10,000 attendees, and Saturday was the main event day with 20,000 attendees.

Boeing 747-8I - Image: Microsoft

While some people may look at Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS) and call it a video game, it is much more than that to a large swath of people. It’s right there in the name: “simulator”. I know a handful of lifelong aviation enthusiasts that can attribute their fascination with flight to Microsoft Flight Simulator. When Microsoft shelved the series and licensed out the code, that was presumed to be the end of the series. 

While 2020 has taken so very much from the world, it has finally given us a new entrant into the coveted flight series. I’ll get right to it, though: MSFS is imperfect. In fact, in its initial release, it is far from perfect. The bones of the simulator, however, are setting the stage for something very special…eventually. And I am very excited for what likely will be coming soon. 

At launch, MS Flight Simulator is only available on PC and that means that many will need to put money into their machines… the more you spend, the better performing your computer will be, and the more likely your experience will be improved. To be blunt; MSFS is a pig. The gaming community has compared it to Crysis, a 2007 game that was legendary for its hardware requirements. Even the highest end consumer gaming PC hardware struggles to run MSFS well, so playing MSFS may require a steep investment. There are ways around this, however, and I’ll touch on that a bit later.

The world created by the MSFS team is stunning; it’s quite literally the entire world. Using satellite imagery from Bing Maps (remember Bing!?), combined with artificial intelligence from Blackshark, MSFS recreated the entire world in a level of detail never before seen. So, even if most people won’t have computers that can run at the highest resolution, it won’t stop us from sharing some pretty good photos of the potential!

Right now is an awful time to fly. But with many of us grounded and stuck at home, it’s been an OK time for daydreaming about flights we want to take once things get back to normal. I wanted to share my list, and then (more importantly) hear from you about what your post-COVID AvGeek priorities are.

  • Flying a 747-8. I’ve flown my fair share of 747-400s. And my time riding seat 1A of a United 747 is still one of my favorite AvGeek memories. But as beautiful as the Queen looks from the outside, most 747-400s are old and have uninspiring interiors. That’s why I’m so excited to try a Dash-8. I think it’s even more gorgeous than the -400. And I’m hoping the younger age means a better onboard experience.

The first ever Boeing 747-8i to visit Prague arrives on a hot summers day Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter