Government Bytes


Obama‘s Back from Africa! Cost of Operating Air Force One for his 2013 Travel So Far: Over $15 Million

by Douglas Kellogg / /

As this addendum to National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s (NTUF’s) 2013 Study of Presidential Travel is released, President Obama is landing at Andrews Air Force Base and making his way to the White House after an extended trip to the African continent.

The long, near 18 hour, flight back from Tanzania marks the 14th overseas flight the President has taken this year (according to the White House schedule and news reports). These trips rack up costs for taxpayers, and a conservative estimate by NTUF reveals the cost of operating Air Force One internationally this year is now up to at least $15,219,433.

This $15 million-plus price tag is based on the cost per-hour of operating Air Force One alone. It does not include any costs for additional aircraft, staff, refueling, etc.

Estimating the potential costs of additional trips the President has planned for later this year is imprecise. However, applying the median cruise speed of Air Force One to distances for trips to Moscow, Indonesia, and Brunei, we can get an idea of flight times. This would bring the total for President Obama’s 2013 Air Force One costs to over $24 million.

Costs are likely to be higher, not only because our estimated flight times are generously quick, but refueling may be required, and more stops are likely to be added to such significant voyages.

As noted in NTUF’s “Up in the Air” study of Presidential Travel, costs outside of aircraft operation are very difficult to assess. Complete information on staffing, security, food, and more, is unavailable, often due to predictable concerns.

The study revealed President Obama nearly spent as many days abroad as the current single term leader, George H.W. Bush – that, despite focusing for nearly half his term on the longest and most expensive campaign in history.

Taxpayers concerned with transparency can only imagine how large these travel costs truly are, and how far President Obama will travel with no reelection campaign this term.

TRIP TIME (hours:min)  
US/DC to Israel 10:25  
Israel to Jordan 0:35  
Jordan to US/DC 10:49 ESTIMATE
US/DC to Mexico City 4:15  
Mexico City to Costa Rica 2:35  
Costa Rica to US/DC 4:03 ESTIMATE
US/DC to Northern Ireland 6:23 ESTIMATE
Northern Ireland to Berlin 1:55  
Berlin to US/DC 8:25  
US/DC to Senegal 7:25  
Senegal to Centurion (Johannesburg) 6:55  
Johannesburg to Cape Town 1:52 ESTIMATE
Cape Town to Tanzania 4:20  
Tanzania to US/DC 17:50  
TOTAL 84.67 $15,219,433
US/DC to Moscow 8:59 ESTIMATE
Moscow to US/DC 8:59 ESTIMATE
US/DC to Indonesia 18:11 ESTIMATE
Indonesia to Brunei 2:09 ESTIMATE
Brunei to US/DC 16:43 ESTIMATE
TOTAL 138.48 $24,891,780


Air Force 1 cost per flight hour estimate from CRS: $179,750

C-40B cruise speed median: 530MPH

Air Force 1 (VC-25) cruise speed: 575MPH



White House schedule:


Estimated flight speeds for Boeing C-40B & VC-25:


Flight distance:



Figures are based off of hours devoted to trip from White House schedule multiplied by Cost Per Hour of flying jet. Estimated flight times are based off of distance from and cruise speed of jet.