Air Force One Set to Drop Trump Off One Last Time

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President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One for a trip to New York to attend a fundraiser, Thursday, May 16, 2019, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One for a trip to New York to attend a fundraiser, Thursday, May 16, 2019, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump is expected to take his final ride on the military's iconic Kennedy blue aircraft, call sign "Air Force One," Wednesday, departing for Florida ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's swearing in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. Trump's last use of the aircraft also means he will be able to fly without any disruption, thanks to mandated flight restrictions for nearby aircraft and official protocols that include U.S. fighter jets sitting alert in case of emergency.

Trump will first have a farewell ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, according to multiple reports. After the 8 a.m. ceremony, Trump will depart for the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach on Wednesday, hours ahead of Biden's official swearing-in.

The 89th Airlift Wing operates five types of support aircraft for the presidential airlift mission, which Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other cabinet officials have used over the last four years. The two most commonly used for the president -- the VC-25A, or a modified Boeing 747, and the C-32A, an enhanced Boeing 757 -- can only use the call sign "Air Force One" when the president is on board.

Traditionally, the outgoing president is granted one last flight aboard the iconic military aircraft to a destination of his choice, as noted by DefenseOne.

But last month, speculation grew as to what Trump's final moves would entail and how use of the presidential aircraft would factor in.

Axios reported Trump was weighing holding a political rally in Florida during Biden's ceremony; officials told the Scotland Sunday Post it was possible the president would jet across the Atlantic on his final ride to Scotland's Glasgow Prestwick Airport, roughly 20 miles from Trump's Turnberry resort. But several large moving trucks were spotted at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend with security in tow, dampening these rumors. CNN reported Trump wanted to depart Washington, D.C. to avoid having to ask Biden for permission to use a presidential aircraft, an indicator of the contentious relations between the two men.

After Trump's inauguration, former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were transported on "Marine One," an SH-3D Sea King, to Andrews and departed on the VC-25A for Palm Springs, California. The call sign used for Obama's flight was SAM44, in honor of his role as the 44th president, DefenseOne said.

The military and the Federal Aviation Administration have already set up temporary flight restriction areas, or TFRs, which are used as no-fly zones while the president is in the air. TFRs are supported by North American Aerospace Defense Command and the Air Force. Air Force fighters such as F-15 Eagles or F-16 Fighting Falcons are tasked with addressing airspace violations -- either escorting the aircraft out of the TFR, or, in extreme cases, shooting it down.

Aircraft are prohibited from flying within a 30-mile radius of Mar-a-Lago while Trump is visiting, a restriction that has been in place since he took office. The FAA has already issued its TFR for Wednesday over Palm Beach beginning at 10:45 a.m.

Meanwhile, Biden arrived at Andrews via a private Boeing charter aircraft on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear why a government jet was not used. By comparison, Trump arrived in D.C. on the military's C-32 in 2017.

But the way incoming presidents travel has varied. While Obama flew from Chicago to D.C. aboard a military aircraft, he then traveled by train to pick up Biden, then his vice president-elect, prior to his inauguration in 2009.

Mary Bruce of ABC News told Inside Edition on Monday that Trump intends to board Air Force One attended by the traditional Air Force personnel, plus additional "uniformed military" and a military band.

"He wants a red carpet. And there may even be an Air Force fighter jet flyover," she said during the segment.

The Joint Task Force National Capital Region, in charge of handling inauguration-related activities including the departure ceremony, did not immediately respond to Military.com's questions for further information Tuesday.

Anthony Scaramucci, who briefly served as Trump's White House communications director, was also on Inside Edition and added that former aides have been invited to the send-off, including him.

"Trust me, that had to be a mass email if one of them got sent to me," he said. The invite requested that guests arrive between 6:00 and 7:15 a.m. in order to pass through security, adding that they could bring up to five guests. A copy of the invitation was shared with Bloomberg News, which first reported the details.

Military families and veterans are often invited by Andrews to formal presidential arrivals and departures.

Because Trump is leaving ahead of Biden's official swearing-in ceremony, he will have the typical presidential entourage, including Secret Service and a military aide carrying the "nuclear football," or the briefcase containing the emergency codes used to authorize a nuclear attack.

Stephen Schwartz, a nonresident senior fellow at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, told CNN that more than one briefcase exists, including one that travels with the vice president. He speculated that Vice President Mike Pence's briefcase will be handed off to Biden's team since they will all be at the inauguration ceremony.

Another will be with the "designated survivor," someone in the presidential line of succession chosen to stay at a secure location in case of disaster.

Once Biden takes the oath, his nuclear codes will become active and Trump's will cease to work, CNN said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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