Number 4 – Douglas DC-9/MD-83
Douglas DC-9s and McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series were also used.
A Hughes Airwest DC-9 was contracted for Reagan’s candidacy to unseat Gerald Ford. Over a period of three months, the aircraft would carry Reagan to more than 60 cities and log more than 50,000 miles. Many of Reagan’s Hollywood friends—Jimmy Stewart, Robert Stack and others—supported Reagan and often accompanied him on flights. Hughes Air West aircraft were painted a bright yellow, and the campaign aircraft was often referred to as the “Flying Banana.”
Number 3 – Boeing 737
The Boeing 737 appears to be the winner as the most selected presidential campaign aircraft. This is not surprising since this is the one aircraft type that has been around and in continuous production from the 1970s until the present. It is also a good size, able to carry candidates, staff, and press comfortably and relatively economically.
In 1988, Michael Dukakis obtained a 737 from Presidential Airways. Presidential was a scheduled airline established in 1985. It operated a diverse mix of aircraft, including one aging 737.This aircraft was used by both Michael Dukakis and later by Bob Dole 1996). Press members assigned to the Dukakis campaign reportedly referred to the aircraft as the “Sky Pig” because it was so slow.
Of course, the 737 has improved continuously. Senator John McCain’s campaign chartered a 737 for the 2000 campaign. The phrase “Straight Talk Express” appeared on the side of the aircraft, below the windows in front of the wings.
Senator John McCain’s 737 lands at a campaign stop.
The plane was divided into four areas: the candidate’s cabin with 10 first class seats for McCain and his senior staff; a second section with a couch and two captain’s chair to use for press interviews; a third section for the Secret Service; and the aft section with 66 seats—and power outlets—for the press.
Of course’ most recently both Hillary Clinton and the Trump have added 737s to their campaign toolkit. Clinton’s plane carries the phrase “Stronger Together” on the side of the aircraft.
Hillary Clinton’s new plane, in Westchester County, NY. pic.twitter.com/zotIRWf7Fc
— John Wagner (@WPJohnWagner) September 5, 2016
The role of the Trump-Spence 737 is principally for the use of the vice presidential candidate, but it offers two very important advantages over Trump’s 757—it can fly into many smaller airports that cannot handle the heaver aircraft, and it provides seating for press, which is also not avilable on Trump’s highly personalized 757.
Number 2 – Boeing 757
The Boeing 757 has figured prominently in three presidential campaigns.
John Kerry, who began the 2004 campaign chartering business jets, was upgraded to a 757 as the campaign shifted into high gear. The 1990 aircraft was chartered from TransMeridian Airlines of Columbia, South America. It was repainted white and the words “John Kerry,” “President,” and “The Real Deal” posted on the sides.
It is reported that Kerry liked to joke with the press, on one occasion saying that “…my hair can be used as a flotation device,” and at another time saying that the 94-seat aircraft had “…23 or 24 parachutes on board,” and that he would be made available to those reporters “who wrote positive stories about him.” Unlike many previous candidates, Kerry did not actually name his aircraft.
In 2000, George Bush also used a 757 during his 2000 campaign.
Barack Obama had a 757 that was appropriately outfitted (or lavishly, according to some) for a presidential campaign. The front cabin had four plush recliners as well as a four-seat booth for meetings or meals. His campaign logo, “Obama 08 – President” was embroidered into the seats.
Apparently, someone thought, or started the rumor, that Obama was campaigning on Air Force One and that he had it repainted, removing the flag from the tail. This was the campaign aircraft with the Obama logo on the tail. The aircraft had been chartered from North American Airlines, which did have a stylized flag on the tail. The entire aircraft was repainted for the campaign with Obama’s slogan, “Change We Can Believe In,” and his campaign logo on the tail.
Donald Trump’s company 757 has figured heavily in the 2016 campaign news. What appears to be a modern, ultra-swank aircraft is in fact, 25 years old. It does have an opulent interior with bedrooms, a shower a grand dining area—much of which came with the aircraft when Trump bought it from Paul Allen ten years ago.
Still it is a pricey ride. Trump states that he owns the aircraft outright, therefore, there are no payments in his immediate operating cost, which still amount to about $10,800 per operating hour. Still, the operating costs for a chartered or leased 757 run in excess of $20,000 per hour.
Candidates who want to save some money can easily charter a Cessna Citation for about $3,000 dollars an hour, but nobody would notice, and most importantly, you can’t haul the press along (but some candidates may consider that a benefit!).
Number 1 – Air Force One
Every sitting president who ran for re-election used Air Force One to travel to campaign cities. Presidential security is serious business, and the President is expected to fly on secure aircraft, regardless of the purpose of the flight. If the flight was strictly for a campaign event, the cost of the flight is supposed to be reimbursed to the government from campaign funds. Several candidates relied heavily on on-demand charter services or flew on business aircraft provided by campaign supporters.