State Aircrafts: Exclusive use of Aircraft for Heads of State and Presidents

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On a long or medium-distance GITT (Governmental and Institutional Travel and Tourism) trip, it is most common for the delegation to use air transport to travel between the departure and destination points. For this purpose, many countries have private aircraft (airplanes and helicopters) that are usually owned by the State and used exclusively by heads of state, the royal family or presidents of the government.

The best known of these are the aircraft used by the United States government and operated by the U.S. Air Force. These are two Boeing 747s with license plates 82-8000 and 82-9000, which are indistinctly called Air Force One when the President of the United States is on board. They also have 7 Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King (S-61B) armored helicopters, which are called Marine One when used by the President. In addition, they have several other models of helicopters and airplanes that are often used as escorts for presidential travel.

In cases where the plane or helicopter is transporting the vice-president of the United States, the designations are Air Force Two and Marine Two, respectively.

The Russian president uses a four-engine turbofan twin-shaft Ilyushin Il-96-300PU wide-body aircraft, which is commonly referred to as Samoljot Presizenta Rossii. This impressive aircraft with a range of about 12,000 km, reaches speeds of 870 km/h at cruising speed and its interior is adapted to accommodate the president and his Delegation. Its complex security system is considered a state secret.

The government of the People's Republic of China uses three Boeing 747-400 aircraft operated by Air China which, when not being used by the president, are flown commercially by this airline. On the occasions when the Chinese president needs to use the plane, it is carefully checked by the government security service, and is remodeled by removing the seats to make way for a lounge, a bedroom and an office.

In Spain, the Royal House, the presidency, vice-presidency, ministries and other members of official bodies rely on two specialized units of the Spanish Air Force called Grupo 45 and Escuadron 402 (belonging to the Ala 48 group) for their travels. The first one is in charge of the aircraft fleet, consisting of two Airbus A310 and several Dassault Falcon 900. The second unit, the Escuadrón 402, only operates helicopters, with a fleet consisting of several Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma and Eurocopter AS 532 Cougar. Both army units are based in Torrejón de Ardoz (Madrid).

For their part, the German government has a fleet of twelve aircraft, including the "Konrad Adenauer" and the "Theodore Heuss", the main aircraft, of the Airbus A340-313X V.I.P. type. The most interesting thing about these aircraft is that they can be quickly converted into air hospitals.

Finally, it is interesting to note that, curiously, the Vatican City uses planes chartered by the Alitalia company for the travels of its Head of State, the Pope, on his outbound flights to the destination to which he is going. However, on return flights, the Pope uses, as dictated by Vatican protocol and as a courtesy, aircraft chartered by a flag airline of the country he has been visiting. This sometimes varies, depending on whether it has been a multi-destination trip, in which case, the head of the Vatican State usually uses planes chartered by Alitalia again. The code used for papal flights is "Volo Papale", followed by the number of flights each pope has made.

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