Why Refrigerators On Air Force One Cost Nearly $24 Million

Monica Busch
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According to a report by the national security news outlet Defense One, taxpayers are about to shell out just about $24 million for new refrigerators on Air Force One. Officials from the Air Force say it's because the old refrigerators are just too old and prone to failure.

"Although serviced on a regular basis, reliability has decreased, with failures increasing, especially in hot/humid environments,” Air Force spokesman Ann Stefanek told Defense One in an email. "The units are unable to effectively support mission requirements for food storage."

Presidential travel is not something taken lightly. Intensive security measures must be taken in order to protect the president and his cohorts at all times, wherever they are traveling. When it comes to flying, this includes keeping enough fresh food on board to feed the president and his guests for days on end. Marcus Weisgberber reports in Defense One that the refrigerators cost so much because the Air Force and the White House Military Office require that equipment for the planes be custom-made.

Aside from being uniquely designed for safety, the Air Force one simply has to carry massive amounts of food at any given time. That apparently means enough food to make up to as many as 3,000 meals, Defense One reported.

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"The units and associated aircraft structural modifications are being specially designed to provide nearly 70 cubic feet of temperature-controlled (refrigeration/freezer) storage to support on-board personnel for an extended period of time, without having to restock while abroad," Stefanek explained to CNN.

Back in December, the Air Force, which oversees the presidential plane, awarded Boeing a $23.7 million contract to upgrade the refrigerators, referred to as "cold chiller units." According to the Department of Defense, the units will "be modified with new cold food stowage to improve reliability and maintainability."

Air Force One is the name given to a fleet of two jumbo jets that the president travels on. Whichever one the president is on board is referred to as Air Force One. The Washington Post reports that the current 747 planes were acquired in 1990, which is when the current refrigerator units were installed, making them about 28 years old. The Air Force reportedly declined to clarify whether the new refrigerator units will be installed in one of the two planes, or one in each. The upgrades are expected to be completed by October of 2019.

While officials have justified the cost, a senior advisor to former President Barrack Obama reacted to the news on Twitter. "We would have been impeached," he wrote, linking to a news article about the refrigerator upgrades.

The presidential fleet was built back in 1986, and according to Forbes, can comfortably seat up to 70 passengers. Each one reportedly cost $325 million and costs about $179,750 per hour to operate, partially due to the immense security modifications.

According to ABC, Air Force one is equipped with technology that jams unwanted radars and staves off airborne missiles. It also is able to be refueled while in the air, meaning it can stay in the air much longer than other aircraft.

Additionally, the plane also features a fully equipped medical center, including an operating room and, at times, emergency reservoirs of the current president's blood type. The presidential physician travels with the president when he flies and administers care in the event of an emergency. The fully functioning on-flight emergency room ensures that the president can receive medical care without having to land first.

The call sign "Air Force One" has been around since 1953, when President Dwight E. Eisenhower was flying on a plane known as Air Force 610, and was confused with Eastern Airlines Flight 610 that was in the air space at the same time. The pilot recommended it be called Air Force One instead, and the name has been around ever since.