For some time now, NTU Foundation has tracked the international travel of American presidents and offered whatever insight we can into what it costs taxpayers. The full extent of the cost has always been unclear -- officials are hesitant to reveal too much given the safety concerns they need to consider, but there is also a huge logistical challenge that comes with moving the President overseas. Security teams make multiple advance trips to get a feel for the destination; multiple cargo planes need to come along with supplies and ground transportation; and the President's entourage usually includes dozens of medical, security, and diplomatic personnel. It's a huge undertaking that requires significant resources to execute safely.
One of the few things we do know for certain about the President's travel is what it costs to fly his aircraft. Air Force One refers to one of two Boeing 747s that are outfitted with military-grade appointments and features making it fit to carry the leader of the free world. Occasionally, the military will release information on the cost per flight hour of Air Force One, which includes fuel, maintenance, and flight consumables. In 2010, NTUF reported that figure was $179,750 per hour; it had increased to $228,288 by FY 2013.
Now, in FY 2015, it costs $206,337 per flight hour to fly Air Force One, according to information obtained by Judicial Watch and reported in Business Insider. This latest figure is about $22,000 less than that used in NTUF's previous flight cost estimates.
The updated cost per flight hour comes on the heels of news that the Air Force will replace the aircraft used to carry the President, which are each 25 years old at this point. In the past, the Air Force has projected that such an acquisition would cost about $1.7 billion over five years. If that seems expensive, consider the extensive upgrades that must be made to meet military specifications: it has to be able to refuel mid-flight; communicate securely over videoconference, phone, and internet networks; carry on-board medical staff and equipment; and be fitted with advanced anti-missile defense systems. The planes will likely take another five years to be delivered.
For more on Presidential travel and its costs, check out NTU Foundation's ongoing studies in our research archive.