How long can the Air Force One (or VAC 25-A, since Air Force One is only a call sign) stay in the air before it has to land ?


  • American airspace only
  • Supply available for long flight
  • air refuelling possible
  • threat from enemy forces on the ground.
  • No international assistance


A realistic period of time that Air Force One can stay in the air.

Problems I see:

  • the isolation of the occupants

    the Nasa has already done long term isolation trials, but among scientists and have also provided tasks/occupation.

    Air Force One is a military aircraft in a permanent stress situation with ( supposed to be ) strict hirachy, however the pilot has the final say on the flight and doctors can write military unfit for duty.

  • Food and water

    Air Force One can serve up to 300 meals at a time however it can also transport over 100 people. So it's difficult to say how much supply is on board.

    And on long journeys without access to fresh fruit, scurvy can be a problem. It depends on the vitamin tablets on board.

  • Medical supplies

    Basically the same as food and water, no indication of how large the medical reseven is, just that there is an operating room on board. However, there was/is a map of Air Force One for rescue councils on the internet showing the oxygen tank and other details. Maybe one can estimate the supplies with that.

  • Material fatigue

    The Air Force One is thoroughly checked before every take-off, however no aircraft is designed to fly for weeks on end. There are certainly parts that will fail after days (weeks ?). However, I don't know much about this and if you don't have a time frame mapped out, by hand-waving after 3 weeks a major part will break.


The Vac-25 was being prepared for a long flight for President Eddie from Washington to Israel. Shortly after take-off, a military push proclaimed the United States of America 2.0 (now with 10% more weapons and freedom). This makes 95% of all military installations hostile to Air Force One. Only a few Air Force bases, spread across the country, are still loyal to the President on board Air Force One (mainly because pilot Bruce D. has a legendary reputation as a musician) and want to help him respectively the President. To this end, they try to regularly supply Air Force One with fuel by air refuelling.

Air Force One cannot hope for international help, as the President has angered the governments of almost the entire world through some "misadventures". And that several times.

However, the new government wants President Eddie alive to condemn him as a symbol of the old and have a clean break so they can start anew. To do this, they pursue Air Force One at a safe distance with their own jets and try to stop the attempts to supply Air Force One so that the plane has to land and the President can be arrested. On the ground, several intervention troops are ready if this happens. Air Force One itself is not attacked.

Bonus points: Is this situation considered a siege ?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Tantalus'touch. The president has to get out of Air Force One on the ground without major injuries, the rest doesn't matter. Cannibalism was also on my mind, but then I couldn't find an order of "food" by military rank that I liked $\endgroup$ – Anton Hinkel Jan 31 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ As sieges go, it will be short: "Susan, don't shoot Eddie down. We need him for the trial. But do feel free to shoot down anybody who tries to refuel him." $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jan 31 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ I envision the enemies of President Eddie gleefully tracking him down after the plane decreases in altitude and he bails out. But no - what parachuted out of the plane is actually an anatomically correct mannikin of President Eddie made from a sack of the collected dung from the plane occupants. It has a sign : "EAT ME". $\endgroup$ – Willk Jan 31 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ Depending on which Airforce One he is on, funny limits can arise. A 737, for instance, needs to power cycle at least once every 248 days to avoid a rollover in the system clock that would hose up navigation. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jan 31 at 21:02
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    $\begingroup$ What exactly is the worldbuilding problem you're facing here? How is this a good fit for this forum? It looks like a real world question that belongs on a military forum. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Feb 1 at 0:49

Septic tank backing up, or fresh water running out.

"Toilet to tap" water recycling is very hard to do, and there are no references to such a system being installed on Air Force One as far as I can tell.

So some capability information is intentionally hidden, and schematics like this one don't include all the nitty gritty details I need to fully answer this question, but I can estimate based on information about airline toilet systems. An average long-haul 747 flight needs about "230 gal", which is about ~1000L of septic tank liquid to be drained, and each flush of an airline toilet needs about 2-2.5L of water.

Calling a long-haul flight 12 hours, so after 24 hours a normal 747 makes 2000L of septic tank. But there are less people than a normal 747, so lets call it 1000L/24hrs.

I see no spot in the schematic for the water tank or septic tank to estimate it's capacity, but it has to fit in there somewhere. There's also trim issues on where these liquids are stored, and sloshing concerns (plane lifts nose up, septic tank sloshes rearward, center of gravity shifts back, tipping plane into a stall). There's only ~110,000kg of payload capability to play with here - allocating 9% of all storage, 10,000kg of it to the storage of water or sewage is probably very generous. Especially if this thing is also lugging the bullet-proof limo and a gym and mini-pentagon and conference suite and nuclear shielding.

That implies there's ~4,000 flushes of the toilet possible before the septic system overflows or the water runs out, or both. Assuming they ration their water and don't shower or cook too much with it, and with generous assumptions of water tank size, they'll last 10 days before the poo stops going down, and the tap dries up.

3 days after that, they're dead from thirst.

  • $\begingroup$ Or they can just collect rainwater and sh*t in packets and throw them overboard... $\endgroup$ – Vashu Feb 1 at 1:21
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    $\begingroup$ @vashu How do they harvest rainwater? Open the door and stick out a bucket? $\endgroup$ – Ash Feb 1 at 1:57
  • $\begingroup$ With some cloth. Why do you think cloth used for aircraft fabric covering is made waterproof? Fog collection uses the same principle. $\endgroup$ – Vashu Feb 1 at 5:38

Lubrication and maintenance.

Airliners are not designed for long-term operation and the VC-25A is not a complete redesign. Fuel may be the most immediate concern, but it is not the only one.

The E-4 was supposedly designed to stay airborne for a week. I would be surprised if the VC-24A can do much more, and I would not be surprised if it can do a little less.

That means isolation, and probably even food and medical supplies will not become an issue. Medical supplies will run out in a hurry if they have several heart attacks in a row, and not at all if no such things happens. And an otherwise healthy human can starve for a week of limited physical activity.


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