ORDfan
Posts: 241
Joined: Sat Jun 30, 2007 6:02 am

Air Force One - Captain Vs President

Wed Jun 09, 2010 11:29 pm

Given the recent the findings that there were non-crew in the cockpit of the doomed Polish presidential jet and that the pilots may have been pressured (although not formally ordered) to land in fog at Smolensk, I was wondering what would be the protocol for Air Force One if it were in a similar situation. Does the pilot-in-command retain ultimate authority over the aircraft, or does the President? Could the President, or conceivably, a high-ranking general exert the same kind of influence over AF1's crew as was the case on the Polish plane?

What if the President made an unreasonable, or what the captain deemed to be, unsafe command; does the AF1 captain have to obey that order, even if he believed it compromised the President's and passengers' safety?
 
rfields5421
Posts: 5546
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 12:45 am

RE: Air Force One - Captain Vs President

Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:33 am

The Air Force crew would make the decision to divert. Where they would go would be decided in consultation with the Secret Service.

Sept 11, 2001 showed a lot about how the system works. Though the President and his advisors wanted him in DC as soon as possible, the Secret Service was not going to allow that to happen. And the Air Force flew where the Secret Service decided. The Thanksgiving 2003 visit to Baghdad also showed how the decision to land or divert is not made by the political staff, but by the AF and the Secret Service.

But to be truthful, I don't think a situation like the Poland/ Russia incident could happen with Air Force One.

The pre-mission planning is more extensive and the aircraft is closely monitored throughout the flight. AF1 is not the only plane landing at that time. There is a press plane which has to land approx 30 min ahead of AF1, with a second press plane due in 30 min after AF1.

Diversion airports are briefed and staffed before the flight takes off. The military aircraft carrying the helicopters and limos come into the destination airport early. There is usually a staff aircraft (B737, B752 or G-IV which lands right before AF1, and the runway is often checked by Secret Service and a USAF pilot just before landing. There will be a USAF weather officer on the site for a foreign trip.

If a situation were to develop where a 'look and see' were to be flown, it would be done by one of the other aircraft airborne with AF1, not the aircraft with the President aboard.

In a situation like the Polish crash, AF1 would be able to receive live video from the ground in the communications center. The flight crew - which includes relief pilots and a navigator - would be able to see the actual conditions on the ground.

The US President traveling is a huge circus with between 8 and 25 aircraft involved depending upon the distance and destination. There is almost always a second B747 - the E-4B nearby and for long distance trips, the second VC-25 will usually make the trip, or at least a B757.

All that flying circus is a pain, but would provide many resources to the AF1 crew than the Polish crew had availalbe.

[Edited 2010-06-09 20:37:30]
 
ThePointblank
Posts: 2465
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:39 pm

RE: Air Force One - Captain Vs President

Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:46 am

Indeed, the Secret Service does have a lot of say over where or how the President travels. Remember when Bush Jr. arrived on the Abe Lincoln for the Mission Accomplished speech? He originally wanted to land in a F/A-18, but the Secret Service effectively said 'over their dead bodies'. They took a S-3 instead. The President would never have that much power to order the pilot to land in a situation that could endanger the aircraft and its passengers without his Secret Service agents objecting heavily.
 
User avatar
kc135topboom
Posts: 10997
Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2005 2:26 am

RE: Air Force One - Captain Vs President

Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:46 pm

Correct, diversion airports are always planned. The PIC on AF-1 can fly the approach down to DH, and make the final decision to land or go-around and divert. Once a go-around is started, that begins the ball rolling at the primary divert base/airport. It all begins with the R/GA pickle switch. All of this is discussed well before hand with the SS.

On 9/11/01 after the POYUS and AF-1 were airborne out of Florida, they initially had no place to go, as already mentioned the SS did not want to return to ADW. Only after consultation with the PIC, SS, and USAF was it decided to divert to BAD, and upload full fuel and provisions from the Base Commissary for a flight of unknow duration. The flight to BAD and later from BAD-OFF was the first time AF-1 was ever escorted by USAF fighters (F-16s) over the CONUS.

You may recall the Presidential Limo was not at BAD or OFF, instead President Bush rode in a USAF armored police vehicle and Humvee.
 
User avatar
Dreadnought
Posts: 9800
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 6:31 pm

RE: Air Force One - Captain Vs President

Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:34 pm

Quoting ORDFan (Thread starter):
iven the recent the findings that there were non-crew in the cockpit of the doomed Polish presidential jet and that the pilots may have been pressured (although not formally ordered) to land in fog at Smolensk, I was wondering what would be the protocol for Air Force One if it were in a similar situation. Does the pilot-in-command retain ultimate authority over the aircraft, or does the President? Could the President, or conceivably, a high-ranking general exert the same kind of influence over AF1's crew as was the case on the Polish plane?

Good question. I suppose that the Navy has the same sort of issue aboard capital ships like aircraft carriers, where there is a ship's Captain and there is usually an Admiral.

The logical answer would be that the Admiral (or the Prez, in your case) has the authority to order the Captain to go here or there, but the daily operations and safety of the ship (or plane) rests with the Captain, and he has a duty to refuse an order that puts the craft in unreasonable danger. I don't know if that is the case, but that's how I would lay down the law in the sovereign nation of Dreadnoughtistan.
Forget dogs and cats - Spay and neuter your liberals.
 
sasd209
Posts: 381
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:32 am

RE: Air Force One - Captain Vs President

Fri Jun 11, 2010 1:09 am

I'm sure there is much consultation as you all have said, but at the end of the day I'd like to think that the professionals that fly the A/C for a living would have the final say over the safety of said A/C and passengers.

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 12 guests