Do you want to learn about the top 10 best aircraft in the world used by presidents and world leaders? Get an insight into the best luxury jets and fleets used by the United States, China, Russia and more.
Our list explores each aircraft's features including cost, capacity, speed, special qualities, and security systems.
10: Doomsday Plane (Boeing E-4B) – USA
|Current Leader (Aug, 2019)||Donald J. Trump|
You’ve almost certainly heard of Air Force One, but did you know that the US President also has access to a second, highly-equipped plane created for emergencies? It’s called the ‘Doomsday Plane’. Or the E-4B.
This modified Boeing 747 is the perfect getaway in dangerous situations. The aircraft is designed for the absolute worst-case scenario, with the potential to withstand a nuclear war. Thermo-radiation shields surround the aircraft. And it can fly for 620 hours, going days without stopping to refuel.
Communication with the outside world – should it still be in existence – is unparalleled. The US President, or any other person on board, can communicate with nuclear submarines. This is achieved through something called a ‘radome’, which is packed with 67 satellite dishes and antennas. The radome is housed on top of the jet, creating a dome effect that can be seen with the naked eye.
Because it’s built for emergencies, the plane is constantly ready to get moving: 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Once on board, certain passengers can access highly classified information. This is designed for a special air mission or an emergency when leaders need to be constantly updated on important political developments.
An elite security team is on board at all times. And the equipment is so technologically advanced that it requires a unique air conditioning system to keep it operating properly. One U.S. Air Force worker told CNBC: ‘It’s like a backup Pentagon’. Perhaps that says it all.
9: Airbus A330-243 Prestige – Kazakhstan
|Current Leader (Aug, 2019)||Kassym-Jomart Tokayev|
The President of Kazakhstan has access to a full fleet of aircraft rumored to cost more than $250 million. It includes a range of jets and a Mi-8 helicopter, which is typically used for shorter trips. Despite the fact the presidential fleet is that large, a select few aircraft are repeatedly chosen for the most important occasions.
Here are the big three:
- Airbus A330-243 Prestige
- Airbus A320-214 CJ Prestige
- Airbus A321-211 CJ
Of those, the Airbus A330-243 Prestige is the daddy. It’s reserved for events like the G20, a summit where the world’s most influential leaders gather to discuss topics of major political concern. And it’s been used for official visits to the US, China, and Russia. For example, the aircraft landed at Vnukovo-2 airport in April 2019 for an official visit to Russia.
Founded in 2000, Berkut Air is an airline based in Kazakhstan which helps provide additional aircraft to the government when needed. For example, the president can opt for a Boeing 757-200 or Tupolev Tu-134AK via Berkut. Where possible, it’s common for presidents to utilize local airlines to support their own nation – and Kazakhstan is no different.
8: Boeing 767-200ER – Zimbabwe
|Current Leader (Aug, 2019)||Emmerson Mnangagwa|
The use of a luxurious presidential aircraft in Zimbabwe is a source of controversy. The nation falls outside of the list of Africa’s top 10 richest countries and its leader uses a customized Boeing 767-200ER which is said to be one of the most expensive business jets in operation worldwide. The majority of locals rightly feel that funds are not being prioritized.
Objectively, the plane itself is a fine piece of equipment. That means 5* facilities right down to the finest crystal glass and silver in the interiors. Up to 40 passengers can fly in total luxury.
7: Boeing 747-400 – China
|Current Leader (Aug, 2019)||Xi Jinping|
Just like Kazakhstan, the Chinese government are doing their bit to boost their own economy. Not one but two Boeing 747-400s are available to the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, coming from their very own Air China. Combined, that’s around half a million dollars of aircraft.
Catch a flight on Air China and you may end up sitting where the country’s leader has sat. After it’s been used for a government trip, the plane is refitted to its original layout. It can then go back into service for other paying customers.
So, why not buy an aircraft specially for China’s leader?
There’s a curious backstory to China’s presidential aircraft. The Chinese are famous for creating their own versions of products and services. Instead of WhatsApp, they have WeChat. Instead of Uber, there’s Didi Chuxing. And yet, when refitting planes which were planned for use by China’s leader, the job was outsourced to the US.
Once the aircraft were returned, they were inspected. The security team believed they had found almost 30 listening devices hidden on the planes, and so they were never used for their intended purpose. The CIA refused to respond to the report which implicated wrongdoing on their part, and the event remains a mystery to this day.
This suspicion helps explain why there are so few images of the interiors. However, some have been captured during on board meetings with other world leaders.
6: Airbus A330 – United Kingdom
|Current Leader (Aug, 2019)||Theresa May|
Being the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom must be a very taxing job. So it’s no surprise the PM needs their own aircraft. But it’s not quite what you might expect.
The Airbus A330 largely resembles one you’d find on any commercial zone. One of the highlights is a VIP area, yet this only contains a couple of ottoman chairs and a curtain to allow some privacy from the main cabin. When you think about some of the luxury jets owned by other world leaders, it’s quite a humble offering.
The aircraft travels at 667 km/h and can fit 158 passengers. Of those 158, 58 will ride in the relative luxury of business-class seats.
An honorary mention also goes out to the UK’s 32nd squadron. The incredible fleet includes two AW109 helicopters, a Sikorsky S-76 Spirit, and a further ten private jets. In total, that’s around $100 million worth of equipment. It might seem a little indulgent. But they are royalty, after all.
5: Airbus A330-200 – France
|Current Leader (Aug, 2019)||Emmanuel Macron|
France is well-known for its romance and poetry. When you take a look at their presidential plane, it’s easy to see how it’s conceived.
The modified Airbus A330-200 is a far cry from the norm. Onboard, you’ll find an en suite bedroom, kitchen, and even a soundproof room that can fit a dozen passengers. Perfect for high-level negotiations, with no prying ears.
Passengers can access a range of amenities that would suit any high-ranking political figure. As well as enjoying a private suite complete with shower, the president can get down to business at any point with internet access that reaches over 10,000 meters above the ground. Elsewhere, a conference room boasting seating for up to 60 VIPs means there’s no time to rest aboard this refined presidential aircraft.
To further prove that this jet is all business, there’s a command center on board. If you want to send a top-secret message, you’re in the right place. Connections here are encrypted and secure, so even highly classified information can be safely sent and received.
For shorter trips, the French President does have other options. That’s because the full fleet includes two Dassault Falcon 7Xs. With a range of just over 11,000 km and a top speed of 953 km/h, the Falcon 7X is a fine choice for short, quick trips when duty calls.
4: Airbus A340-313X VIP – Germany
|Current Leader (Aug, 2019)||Angela Merkel|
Much like the USA’s Air Force One, Germany has a special name for its chief presidential aircraft: Konrad Adenauer. It's named after the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). He was in charge from 1949 to 1963, yet the name remains more than half a century later.
Carrying nearly 150 passengers and costing a cool $300 million, the Airbus A340-313X VIP – or Konrad Adenauer – is an impressive specimen. It was actually purchased from Lufthansa before being reconfigured for a VIP setting. It has added fuel tanks that allow it to fly for 13,500 km without stopping. Despite this efficiency, it’s also quite luxurious. Hop onboard and you’ll sport bedrooms, offices, and a soundproof room.
It’s a step up from the former Konrad Adenauer – an Airbus A310-304 which was used from 1990-2011. That plane really showed its worth when it was used to evacuate 15 individuals from Libya. It was retired soon after – a fitting end, we can all agree.
The Airbus A340-313X VIP might be at the heart of Germany’s operation, but the whole fleet is impressive. And what’s more, they’re designed so that they can quickly be refitted as air hospitals. Does it get much safer than this?
Here’s the full list:
- 2 x Airbus A340-313X VIP
- 2 x Airbus A319-133X CJ
- 1 x Airbus A321-200
- 4 x Bombardier Global 5000
- 3 x Eurocopter AS532 Cougar
3: IL-96-300PU – Russia
|Current Leader (Aug, 2019)||Vladimir Putin|
A strong leader needs a strong aircraft, and that is exactly what Russia has in its Ilyushin IL-96-300. It came at a cost of around $500 million when factoring in the plush interiors and high-tech security.
Physically, the Ilyushin IL-96-300 is a beast. The service ceiling is 12,000 meters, the wingspan stretches 65 meters, and the entire thing weighs around 270 tonnes. One of the key differences between this and the original is the defense systems on board. Special radars have a jamming, disorienting effect which makes it difficult to tail. And before any aircraft get too close, they’ll do well to consider the IL-96-300PU’s anti-aircraft defense system.
In spite of its size, the plane can reach speeds of 900 km/h. But if you’re picturing an aircraft devised for raw power alone, think again. The interiors were actually designed by Ivan Glazunov. He’s the son of a famous Russian artist, Ilya Glazunov. The outside of the plane may be built to resist attacks, but the inside is built to inspire.
The security of the plane is paramount. Keeping their cards close to their chest, Russian NTV Mir television stated that ‘All technical information on the closed project is a state secret’. But, judging by the photos, it’s safe to assume the President wants for nothing when on board.
2: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner – Mexico
|Current Leader (Aug, 2019)||Andrés Manuel López Obrador|
If you’re a Mexican native, you may not be best-pleased at former President Enrique Pena Nieto splashing out on the world’s most expensive plane. If you’re an aviation enthusiast, it is simply a thing of beauty.
The Dreamliner can hold 250 passengers and fly 10,000 miles straight without refueling. This means it can make the trip from Los Angeles to Tokyo without stopping. But the total costs are rumored to be anything from $218 million up to an eye-watering $600 million.
The brown and cream interiors are effortlessly classy. A U-shaped sofa and several desks in the main lounge make it easy to relax in style. And the fireplace helps, too. But don’t worry – it’s just a CG video projection, not an actual fire.
The master bedroom has a luxurious double bed, chair, and cabinets. And the fully-equipped bathrooms wouldn’t look out of place at a top hotel.
Naturally, the people of Mexico met the arrival of the Dreamliner with plenty of exacerbation and even started a petition to halt its arrival. And that’s part of the reason that it won’t be around much longer. In December 2018, President Enrique Pena Nieto’s successor announced plans to sell the Dreamliner. The profits will then be injected back into the Mexican economy.
1: Air Force One (Boeing VC-25) – USA
|Current Leader (Aug, 2019)||Donald J. Trump|
Prior to being elected President of the United States, Donald Trump took to social media to give his views on Air Force One. He wrote: ‘Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!’
Fast-forward to 2018 and reports place the total cost at anywhere from $3.9 billion to $5.3 billion. Yes, you read that correctly. The massive cost far outweighs anything on this list and was secured by Boeing. They’ve been commissioned to build two brand new planes with a patriotic twist of a red, white and blue coating.
Quite what prompted Trump’s change of heart is up for debate. But he may not be the one to enjoy the state-of-the-art planes, which are scheduled to be ready in 2024.
Technically, ‘Air Force One’ refers to any US aircraft carrying the President, but it is commonly associated with his own private plane – currently the Boeing VC-25A. That’s its military name.
As you’d expect from a world leader like the US, Air Force One’s spec is remarkable. The aircraft has a maximum speed of just shy of 1,000 km/h and measures over 70 meters in length. If the press is allowed on board, they’re kept in a separate zone to high-ranking officials. That’s not a tough task when you consider the cabin area is more than 370 sq. meters.
When you hear about presidential travel by air, you probably imagine a sort of VIP-class aircraft supposed to guarantee maximum security. However, taking a closer look at the top presidential jets makes it clear that the aircraft used by presidents worldwide do not only adhere to the highest standards of safety. The planes are full of luxuries that provide the most comfortable travel experience for all passengers. They also have many special features that let them take on some extra roles whenever needed.
Let us know in the comments below which aircraft you find the most interesting and why.