Air Force One security an issue in the age of FlightRadar24 and social media


The recent visit of the US president to Iraq has raised more than a few eyebrows in respect of presidential security, and the security of operational units who wore identifying badges while taking selfies with the president.

From an aviation perspective keen followers of flight tracking services such as FlightRadar 24 and others, were able to identify quickly a fake cargo flight out of Joint Base Andrews where the pair of aircraft that operate as Air Force One fly from, as the Presidential aircraft.

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This was flashed around the world – as it seemed almost certain there was only one possibility from its heading, that it was the president going to visit troops abroad.

The cargo flight was tracked crossing the Atlantic and then actually photographed in clear blue skies from the ground by an aviation enthusiast who’d picked up the Twitter feed – clearly revealing it over North Yorkshire in England as Air Force One.

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It’s heading was obvious and it remained trackable and visible almost its entire route.


There was plenty more that gave the visit game away, from the behaviour of White House Marines, who vanished whereas they’re always there when the president is in residence, to the presidents own mysterious lack of twitter messages.

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From an aviation perspective it’s not impossible to hide the aircraft from public tracking services. The military do it all the time when they need to, so that it was allowed to be so publicly visible seems strange. In any event let it be a wake up call for those tasked with presidential security, that a far more expansive and multi-dimensional approach is needed in the future to secure these and other aircraft from the prying eyes of those who may well have other intentions, than just enjoying seeing a rare aircraft pass overhead.