America’s 89th AW—best of the best

US Air Force’s SAM FOX carries ranking leaders using mixed fleet of 18 Boeing and Gulfstream aircraft.

By Phil Rose
Managing Editor

Members of the 89th Operations Group outside the Squadron Operations Center at ADW.

United States Air Force Air Mobility Command’s 89th Airlift Wing (89 AW) is tasked with the transportation of senior government and military leaders anywhere in the world as required by the interests of the United States.

For more than 40 years its home has been ADW (Joint Base Andrews, Camp Springs MD), some 10 miles southeast of downtown Washington DC.

Matching equipment and mission

89 AW’s principal mission is to transport US civilian and military leaders—the President, Vice President, First Lady, members of the Cabinet and Joint Chiefs of Staff—and combatant commanders as required.

It is also tasked with carrying distinguished visitors (DVs) and visiting foreign dignitaries. In all cases 89 AW is required to perform its missions safely, comfortably and reliably while maintaining uninterrupted (and secure) communications and protection.

A total of 1150 personnel make up 89 AW’s active-duty strength. Organizationally, the wing comprises 4 groups—the 89th Airlift Support Group (89 ASG), the 89th Operations Group (89 OG), the 89th Maintenance Group (89 MXG) and the Presidential Airlift Group (PAG).

Aircraft operated by 89 AW include (top to bottom) 99 AS Gulfstream C37A, PAG Boeing VC25A and 1 AS Boeing C32A and C40B.

The 1st Airlift Squadron (1 AS), 99th Airlift Squadron (99 AS) and 89th Operations Support Squadron (89 OSS) all fall under 89 OG. The most widely known of all the aircraft flown by 89 AW are the 2 extensively modified Boeing VC­25As (747-200s) assigned to PAG for Presidential transport.

Delivered in late 1990, these airplanes serve as a highly recognizable symbol of US national power wherever they fly. Much has been written elsewhere about the aircraft that carry the President, his family and entourage.

They differ from regular 747-200s in their interior configuration and accommodations, their communications and electronics equipment, and their capability for inflight refueling. In addition, 2 galleys can provide as many as 100 meals at a single sitting.

89 AW’s other aircraft are assigned to 1 AS and 99 AS, and they are kept extremely busy. They consist of 4 Boeing C32As (757-200ERs), 2 Boeing C40Bs (BBJs), 5 Gulfstream C­20Bs (GIIIs), 4 Gulfstream C37As (G­Vs) and a C37B (G550).

The Boeing C32s and C40s are assigned to 1 AS, while 99 AS operates the Gulfstream C20s and C37s. The C32As were delivered starting in Jun 1998. Externally they resemble commercial Boeing 757-200s, but 1 AS’s aircraft are fitted with auxiliary fuel tanks enabling them to fly up to 5500 nm nonstop.

All 4 C32As have been fitted post-delivery with blended winglets. The cabin is divided into 4 sections—a forward area with communication systems operator (CSO) and data systems operator (DSO) positions, business class seating for 10, a galley and a lav, a self-enclosed stateroom for use by the primary DV, a conference and staff area with 8 business class seats, and a rear section with 32 passenger seats, a galley and 2 lavs.

Tasked with flying the Vice President, First Lady and members of the Cabinet and Congress, 1 AS’s C32As typically carry a crew of 13–16, including 5–7 flight attendants. 1 AS received its first C40B in Dec 2002. Based on the Boeing Business Jet, the C40B has 5 auxiliary fuel tanks (AFTs) in place of cargo space and can fly HIK (Hickam AFB, Hono­lulu, Oahu HI)–ADW direct.

Like the C32A, the C40B has CSO and DSO positions, and an advanced communications suite can replicate any communications combatant commanders or government leaders have in their office. The C­40B has 2 galleys and a crew rest area in addition to a DV compartment with sleep accommodations.

Col Monty Perry, Commander of 89th Operations Group, shows off the executive room of one of 1 AS’s Boeing C32As. While the Vice President and his staff use C32s for OCONUS trips, domestic flights are generally conducted using one of the 99 AS Gulfstreams.

Typical crew compliment is 10, including 4–5 flight attendants. All 89 AW Gulfstreams are operated by 99 AS. The squadron’s 5 C20Bs date from the mid-1980s, while the 4 C37As, which were delivered from 1999 on, were joined last year by a C37B.

A second of the type is due next June. In addition to their mission duties, the C20Bs serve as primary training platforms. The Gulfstreams typically carry a crew of 5, including 1 flight attendant.

At present (Nov 2009), 1 AS has a total of 55 pilots, including 20 instructors and 8 evaluator pilots (EPs), 24 communication systems operators (CSOs), including 6 instruc­tors and 3 evaluators), and 57 flight attendants, including 16 instructors and 7 evaluators.

1 AS pilots fly either the C32A or the C40B, but not both. 99 AS has 63 pilots, 28 engineers, 24 CSOs and 27 flight attendants. Squadron pilots fly both the C20B and the C37A, with 25% of 99 AS crews now trained on the C37B.

SAM FOX and Andrews

ADW (Joint Base Andrews, Camp Springs MD) has been associated with the transportation of senior government leaders ever since Nov 1946, when President Harry Truman, flying aboard a Douglas C54, became the first US President to take off from what was then Andrews AFB.

(L–R) 1 AS DO Lt Col Timrek Heisler, Current Operations Officer Lt Col Scott Smith, Squadron Ops Officer Lt Col Chris Eden, Asst DO Lt Col Scott Benton and C40 Chief Pilot Lt Col Joe Steiss.

In 1962 President John Kennedy’s official aircraft, a Douglas C118, was transferred from its DCA base and ADW became the permanent home of Air Force One. As home to units of other branches of the armed forces, Andrews AFB was renamed Joint Base Andrews on Oct 1, 2009 following the recommendations of the Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission.


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