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Air Force One did not carry Congressman Gregory Meek and entourage to Africa

Claim: Facebook users claim that for the first time in the history of Sierra Leone, the powerful Air Force One in the United States of America landed at the Lungi International Airport in Sierra Leone under the leadership of President Bio. 

The Air Force One did not land in Sierra Leone because the president of the United States was not on board.

Full Text

Following a high level delegation of Congressmen and women of the House of Representative of the United States of America to Africa–Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’ivoire and Tanzania, social media users in Sierra Leone shared claims of the arrival of the powerful Air Force One jet to Sierra Leone for the first time in the country’s history. 

In a two-day visit, the delegation led by the Chairman of the US House  Foreign Affairs Committee Gregory Meek, whose ancestral lineage has been traced to Sierra Leone, spent time with the President and people of Sierra Leone. They also met  with the opposition party members and visited the historic Bunce Island in Sierra Leone which was a trading port during the slave trade era.

A screenshot from a Facebook user.

Other notable members of the delegation were; Congress women Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Joyce Beatty, Rep. Brenda Lawrence, and Congressmen Rep. Ami Bera,Rep. Troy A. Carter. Mr. Meek was ordained Paramount Chief in what was also described as his homecoming ceremony. The delegation arrived with the huge blue and white plane with the bold United States of America inscription on it. It was therefore presumed to be the Air Force One plane and was shared on various Facebook groups. The controversy over whether the aircraft was Airforce One has been growing since then.

Verification

Central to this verification process by DUBAWA is establishing what makes the jet an Air Force One and to address the misconception that has clouded the plane for a long time. The comments section on the Facebook page, as seen below, depicts the mix-up that exists on the Air Force One aircraft.

To start with, the Air Force One  jet is not a specific or single plane as many may believe. It is a couple of aircrafts  with specific tail numbers that have the function of transporting the president of the United States. It is the symbol of the US president

What qualifies the flight to be called an Air Force One depends on whether the president is on board that flight.  Over a period of time, the two Boeing VC25A  aircrafts mostly referred to as the Air Force One  because they have both been transporting US presidents for decades. It is therefore accurate to say that any plane with the president on board can be designated with the Air Force One call sign .  Air Force One is a call sign that has a historical background. DUBAWA therefore made a false verdict on the claim of Air Force One landing in Sierra Leone on the basis that the president was not on board the plane apart from congressmen and women. Again, DUBAWA can say that the aircraft that landed at the Lungi International Airport was not of the calibre of the VC25As. 

Even though the plane has the same looks as the Air force One’s famous blue and white and the US badge attached by the exit door, the tail number of the flight that brought in Congressman Meek and his delegation was not like the two jets that have   frequently been used by five different presidents of the United States since 1991.

The plane that brought Mr. Meek and his delegation has a tail number different from the pair of Boeing 747s that have been mostly assigned the Air Force One call sign. The two Airforce One aircrafts come with tail numbers 28000 and 29000. From the screenshot, you can tell that the tail number of the plane that brought the delegation is not 28000 or 29000 that have played the role of Air Force One for three decades.

Screenshot of delegation on arrival at The Lungi International Airport.

How Did The Air Force One call Sign emerge

The idea of a call sign adopted to serve as an air traffic controller was motivated by the need to distinguish the plane carrying the US president from other commercial flights. This was further explained in this article

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower flew on a Lockheed VC-121A-LO Constellation in the early 1950s, the plane would eventually be referred to as Air Force One, being the first plane to use this call sign. This moniker was established following an  incident in 1953 when Eastern Air Lines 8610 crossed paths with Air Force 8610. The latter plane was carrying the incumbent president.

 Military advisors taking into consideration the risk of having the president travel with a commercial flight during World War II proposed the idea of a military flight and one was immediately converted to serve that purpose for President Franklin Roosevelt and later President Truman

The Vintage Legacy

Prior to the Boeing 747-200Bs,  there were several flights used as means of air transportation for the US presidents and these flights ranged from commercial to  customized aircraft for the head of state. The US Airforce on the quest to provide a befitting and secured means of transportation for the commander-in-chief proposed the idea of having a jet specifically designed to carry presidents of the United States.

From Franklin D Roosevelt  who as the White House proclaimed was the first president to fly while in office to John F Kennedy who equally became the first US president to fly in a specially made presidential aircraft, these transitions were laying the foundation for what was going to be a symbol of America’s power and prestige- The Air Force One. Planes that predated the Boeing VC25As  ranged from the “Sacred Cow” initiated during Roosevelt’s tenure to “Independence” during Truman’s tenure to Eisenhower’s Columbines II and III.

Whilst other political leaders like the Vice President can use either of the modified Boeing 747, it becomes Air Force Two when the Vice President of the United States is on board. A project on a new Air Force One is expected to be completed by 2024 to replace the aging VC25As.

Conclusion

The two VC25A planes have played the roles of Air Force One  for three decades and are mostly assigned with the Air Force One call signs. They come with tail numbers 28000 and 290000. These two have been frequently used by  successive US presidents and mostly identified as Air Force One. However, any flight having the US President on board is automatically designated as  the Air Force One. In a nutshell, the Air Force One was neither in Sierra Leone nor  was the pair of modified Boeing planes that have served that purpose for three decades. Again, it is important to point out that Airforce One  is not one particular plane as many may believe.

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