‘For a billionaire, he has a crappy plane’: Why does Donald Trump have such an old private jet?

If the Republican wins the November elections, he will once be able to fly in the prestigious Air Force One. Meanwhile, he continues to travel in a Boeing 757-200 from the 1990s, much to the confusion of aviation experts

Donald Trump old private jet
Donald Trump's plane taking off from New York in 2023.James Devaney (GC Images)
Miquel Echarri

The last person to spark to make headlines for their use of a private jet was Taylor Swift. Despite her (alleged) concern about climate change, the pop star had no qualms last spring about embarking on a private trip between Los Angeles airport and a very close destination — that lasted around 40 seconds — to avoid getting caught up in traffic. A few days later, it was revealed that the two jets owned by Swift had flown more than 178,000 miles in 2023, the equivalent of circling the Earth seven times.

Swift is often described as the only woman who would be able to beat Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential elections in November. The singer is no fan of Trump (the former president says he feels unrequited love for her), but she shares with him one crucial detail: both are part of the rarefied U.S. elite who owns and uses regularly at least one private plane — a group that includes between 10,000 and 15,000 people.

The main difference is that Swift usually flies on brand new Dassault Falcon 7X, which as a flight range of more than 6,850 nautical miles and space for 16 passengers. Trump, on the other hand, faithful to the (relatively) Spartan ethics that were instilled in him in his youth in the New York neighborhood of Queens, prefers to fly in a relic.

Boeing 757-200

We are talking about a Boeing 757-200, a relic of the happy 1990s, which the tycoon bought in 2010 with the money he earned from the NBC reality show The Apprentice. At that time, the plane had been in service since 1991. It was dangerously close to the end of its useful life cycle and belonged to a line that Boeing had stopped making. Unlike modern jets, it did not have a computerized flight control system, but rather an ancient system of buttons and levers.

Donald Trump waves from his plane in 2016.
Donald Trump waves from his plane in 2016.Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images)
Donald Trump's plane at Laguardia airport (New York) in 2015.
Donald Trump's plane at Laguardia airport (New York) in 2015.Robert Alexander (Getty Images)

The plane remained safely stored in a hangar between 2016 and 2020, when Trump was president of the United States and flew in a refurbished Boeing 747 worth billions of dollars, the famous Air Force One. In January 2021, as soon as Trump left the White House, his Boeing 757 (which at that time had a market value of less than $8 million) was transferred to a workshop in Louisiana, where it was given a new coat of paint. The gigantic T on its tail was replaced by the U.S. flag and the plane received a new name, Trump Force One a testimony to Trump’s incorruptible optimism and continued White House aspirations.

Trump even posted an image of the new-look plane on his platform, Truth Social, boasting that his aircraft was better than Joe Biden’s, which was not all clear. Four years later, Trump is still clinging to the beloved clunker that Jeff Wise, a science journalist and aviation expert, describes as “a secondhand school bus.”

Wise explained in New York Magazine that, if re-elected in November, Trump will not only win “freedom from prison, the ability to jail Joe Biden, a $400,000 salary, and kinglike powers” he will also have the pleasure of replacing the outdated and precarious Trump Force One with the real Air Force One.

Donald Trump's plane flying over Boston.
Donald Trump's plane flying over Boston.MediaNews Group/Boston Herald vi (MediaNews Group via Getty Images)
The giant T on the tail of Donald Trump's plane was recently replaced by the U.S. flag.
The giant T on the tail of Donald Trump's plane was recently replaced by the U.S. flag.Alon Skuy (Getty Images)

Wise quotes an anonymous private-jet broker who was scathing in his opinion of Trump Force One: “It’s like if you wanted to brag about having a massive yacht, so you bought the Staten Island Ferry and converted it. That’s not something that people who really know yachts would find impressive.”

In the article, Wise argues that the Republican’s decision to keep the outdated Boeing 757 comes down to stinginess, blindness or excessive nostalgic attachment, pointing out that with a fortune that Bloomberg puts at $6.5 billion, he could buy “the Gulfstream G650 or the Dassault Falcon 8X, the Porsches and Lamborghinis of the air.” The Dassault Falcon is the one owned by Taylor Swift.

The trade outlet Private Jet Clubs goes one step further, ruthlessly stating that ”Trump flies a crappy plane for a billionaire.” The magazine also says that the real estate magnate would be better served by the faster, more modern and reliable Gulfstream G650, arguing the Boeing 757 has “outdated mechanics and high maintenance costs.” It also claims that Trump has a “penchant” of purchasing older commercial airplanes in questionable condition and refurbishing them to make them look like luxury jets.

The aviation magazine goes on to criticize Trump’s plane’s ostentatious gold-plated silk and oak finishes: its shiny and pompous exterior; its long periods out of service, exposed to corrosion in second-hand hangars; its slowness; relative lack of autonomy; and its problems in gaining height (factors that make it much more susceptible to turbulence). That’s not to mention its lack of fuel efficiency, which means it is likely to have a bigger a carbon footprint than even Taylor Swift’s highly active fleet.

What do other moguls fly?

The plane appears even more outdated when compared to the models flown by other billionaires. According to the website Jet Finder, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos got rid of his Dassault Falcon 900EX as soon as a Gulfstream G650ER became available at the modest price of $75 million — what his company makes on a slow morning.

Details of the interiors of Donald Trump's plane.
Details of the interiors of Donald Trump's plane.Andrew Milligan - PA Images (PA Images via Getty Images)
Details of the interiors of Donald Trump's plane.
Details of the interiors of Donald Trump's plane.Andrew Milligan - PA Images (PA Images via Getty Images)
Donald Trump
Donald Trump in his luxury jet.Andrew Milligan - PA Images (PA Images via Getty Images)

Bill Gates doesn’t follow trends and looks for the most exclusive products. His private jet is a technologically efficient Bombardier Global Express, capable of traveling 13,000 miles in one go at speeds of around a 1,000 kilometers per hour. Elon Musk, more pragmatic and less of a technophile than Gates, followed the same route as Bezos: going from the Falcon 900 to the latest model Gulfstream. According to Jet Finder, perhaps with a touch of humor, that this is a coherent choice for Musk “who doesn’t own great things and likes living simply.”

Richard Branson, one of the main adversaries of Musk and Bezos in the space tourism race, has an old Dassault Falcon, valued at just over $6 million. His excuse is that he hardly needs it. Branson can use any device plane from his aviation company, Virgin Atlantic Flight Services.

Jet Finder, despite criticism from other aviation experts, shows a certain respect towards Trump’s Boeing 757. It includes the plane in its top 10 list of private jets owned by billionaires and is not overly critical of the aircraft, although it points out that for a long time, it has not been worth the $100 million that it apparently cost. Jet Finder points out that the walls are lined with 24-carat gold and its enormous size means that it can carry 43 people, strategically distributed in various seating areas, so that Trump can still have his privacy.

The main room of Donald Trump's plane.
The main room of Donald Trump's plane.Andrew Milligan - PA Images (PA Images via Getty Images)
Details of the interiors of Donald Trump's plane.
Details of the interiors of Donald Trump's plane.Andrew Milligan - PA Images (PA Images via Getty Images)

But the key to Trump’s loyalty to the Boeing 757 probably lies elsewhere. As Wise suggests, the Republican’s stubborn commitment to his increasingly inefficient old plane may be due to ideological reasons.

The former president has an avid interest in the history of aviation and likes to feel connected to it. It is no coincidence that one of his idols is the pioneer aviator, Charles Lindbergh, the man who made the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic, from New York to Paris, on a single-seat monoplane in May 1927. Lindbergh is also the populist, nativist and isolationist politician who patented the slogan “America First.” Writer Philip Roth even imagined the aviator winning the White House against all odds in his novel The Plot Against America.

Trump, as he flies across the country aboard a winged school bus, probably feels like the reincarnation of Lindbergh. If so, it seems likely that he will happily exchange his Boeing 757 for another four years on Air Force One.

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