Revisions/extensions (3:21 pm 2/9/2007) – Corrected the committee John “Mr. Redeploy To a Country We’ve ‘Occupied’ for 61 Years” Murtha chairs)
The Washington Times reported that Queen SanFranNan, the Speaker of the House, wanted to permanently tie up one of the 4 C-32s in the Air Force inventory (that would be a custom-built Boeing 757-200) for her exclusive use. She (or more-correctly, the House Sergeant-at-Arms at her insistence) claimed she needed that particular aircraft because she couldn’t be inconvenienced with a refueling stop.
Some quick background before I continue: In the aftermath of 9/11, the Speaker of the House, as 2nd in line to the Presidency, became entitled to military transport. The Air Force routinely supplied the previous Speaker, J. Dennis Hastert, with a C-21 (the military version of the Learjet 35) or C-20 (if it was the -B, it was the military version of the Gulfstream III, if it was the -H, it was the military version of the Gulfstream IV) for travel between DC and his suburban Chicago district.
I call bullshat on SanFranNan’s specific request. First, let’s review the tale of the tape. The C-21 indeed would not have the range to fly coast-to-coast, as it is a tick over 2,300 miles. Morever, they’re currently based (as of 1997) in Illinois. Either of the C-20s, as well as the follow-on C-37A (the military version of the Gulfstream V) would have the range. The -20B can go 4,250 miles, the -20H can go 4,750 miles, the -32 can go 5,500 miles, and the -37 can go 6,300 miles. Yep, you heard me right; they all can go coast-to-coast without stopping for gas. As a bonus, she’d get there faster on the Gulfstreams.
Morever, the refuelling-is-unsafe line is a canard. Refuellings would be done at Air Force bases, not at commercial airports, and would be accomplished at speeds that even Fed-Ex would only hope to approach.
As for passengers, the Gulfstreams can carry 12 plus its crew of 5, and the Boeing can carry 45 plus its crew of up to 16. The Pentagon limits the entourage to 10 (with no room for the grandkids or hubby’s lobbyists), which is another point of contention between Queen Plastic and the Pentagon.
Communications on the Gulfstreams are a step down from those on the Boeing, but they still offer secure voice and data transmissions. The fact that Hastert lived with them renders that point moot.
So, if it’s not range, not passengers (at least as long as SanFranNan can keep the entourage under the limits) and not communications, what’s driving her to demand the C-32, using the House Sergeant-at-Arms and the chair of the
House Armed Services Committee Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to threaten the Pentagon? It’s primary use is as Air Force Two, the Vice Presidential transport. Indeed, it is fitted out so similarily to the VC-25 (known by all as Air Force One), complete with a conference room and a private section for the VIP including a separate entertainment center and fold-out bed, that it is used by the President when the airport cannot accomodate the VC-25.