A pilot training mission on Wednesday had some Nebraskans and Iowans wondering if President Obama was dropping in for a visit. It turns out the low-flying 747 that resembles Air Force One was simply a pilot practicing takeoffs and landings.
The plane from Offutt Air Force Base was circling the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids. Lieutenant Colonel Sean Murphy, Chief of Training of the First Airborne Command and Control at Offutt, says the plane was drawing attention because that Iowa airport is rarely used as a landing spot.
“We have a variety of transition bases that we go to and Cedar Rapids is one of the airports that we can fly our airplane at,” Murphy says. “The runway is long enough and wide enough and has got the facilities that we need.” The plane is a militarized version of a 747 called an E-4-B. Just as with Air Force One, the words “United States of America” are painted on the side, but the E-4-B is painted a different shade of blue and different color pattern.
“Our mission is to provide the President and the Secretary of Defense with a survivable command center for directing the United States’ forces during conditions of peace and war and we insure that the federal government can maintain continuity during military, national and natural emergencies,” Murphy said.
There are only four 747 E4Bs in the Air Force fleet.