It’s expected that when a new U.S. president takes office there’s gonna be some changes made.
For the Oval Office draperies: certainly.
In the livery for Air Force One? Not since 1962, when President Kennedy selected the design and color scheme for the two Boeing 707s that would carry himself and his successors, through President Clinton. That livery carried forward for the two 747s — proudly built at Boeing’s Everett plant — that followed and served presidents George W. Bush, Obama and Trump.
Ten presidents have flown aboard aircraft whose livery instantly signaled who was aboard: white with two fields of blue with parabolic swooshes along the fuselage and the tail, a gold “pinstripe,” the presidential seal on each side of the passenger cabin, the American flag on its tail and “United States of America” in large capital letters across the fuselage, a font selected — it’s believed — to resemble that used atop The Declaration of Independence.
Trump, who took office just as the federal government was negotiating a contract for the next two presidential aircraft, announced last July that he would put his personal touch on the 747-8s that Boeing will build for the Air Force for $3.9 billion. Demanding colors that looked “more American,” Trump said he favored red, white and blue.
This week, in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Trump unveiled drawings of his own design: “Here’s your new Air Force One.”
The design: Red, white and blue and looking much like the livery for his own Boeing 757 that he used during the 2016 presidential campaign, except that the field of dark blue — appearing darker than the U.S. flag’s blue — sits on the bottom of the fuselage, rather than the top.
Not that newspaper editors are widely known as mavens of design or style, but the plane looks pretty pedestrian, with little to distinguish it from any airliner with a similar color scheme.
Trump is getting push-back on his plans. The House Armed Services Committee, voted 31-26, along party lines, Wednesday to limit changes to the planes’ “paint scheme, interiors and livery” without congressional approval. Washington Reps. Rick Larsen and Adam Smith, the committee chairman, voted in favor.
Larsen was critical of Trump’s attempted interference, telling The Herald: “Let the women and men at Boeing who are experts at designing and building Air Force One do their job. The president should stay out of it.”
“The Air Force One plane is iconic,” said Rep. John Garamendi, D-California. “It is known throughout the world … If someone wants to change its appearance, it’s scheme, we ought to have a say in it … If somebody wants the fixtures to be gold-plated, come back here and tell us why it ought to be that way.”
Regarding whether Air Force One needs a look that is more American, a palette of red, white and blue isn’t itself uniquely “American,” but Air Force One’s livery has come to define itself as American.
Redesigning the aircrafts’ look ignores the part the planes have played in history during more than a half-century. We noted last year that — under those colors — the plane brought Kennedy to Dallas in 1963. Lyndon Johnson — the widowed Jackie Kennedy at his side — took the oath of office aboard the plane. It delivered President Nixon to China and President Reagan to Berlin to implore, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” It protected President George W. Bush in the hours after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001.
The continuity of its colors speaks to the constancy of America and the presidency.
With the 747-8s not scheduled for delivery until the end of 2024, Trump will not fly aboard as president. This is a legacy he leaves for future presidents. As Trump’s policies and decisions go, of course, there are other legacies of far greater importance that will require more than a can of paint to correct.
Trump is nothing if not confident in his own ability to improve anything, either by subtraction, addition or alteration. He should resist the temptation here. The appearance of Air Force One cannot be improved upon.