A week ago a reader by the name of Bob sent me this link to an article at AIGA that details the graphic history of Air Force One. In a post on September 2nd, I made a remark asking why Air Force One wasn’t more “patriotic colored” (meaning, darker blues and some red to match the American Flag).
The modern Air Force One design was a collaboration between a number of individuals in the Kennedy administration. And to answer my own question, there’s a reason red is not used on the plane — Kennedy didn’t like the color.
But the Air Force One scheme is surprisingly subtle. It avoids, to begin with, the obvious red, white and blue. The subtlest part of the design was the use of the two blues. The lighter one is said to represent tradition. The darker, cyan-influenced one, is said to be more futuristic. Loewy described it as “a luminous ultramarine blue.”
That light blue—somewhere between sky and robin egg blue—recalled the United Nations blue and therefore suggested peace. It also referenced the blue of Pan Am, the quasi-American-flag carrier airline of the time. It seems to me a pretty daring color to use by the president in 1963. It could easily have been taken for soft or sissy. It looked positively French; it could have come from the waistcoat of a courtier in the court of Louis XVI.
The more you look at the scheme today, the better it looks. It is smart and subtle. There’s pure white on top and pure metal below and those two blues. The engines, too, are not forgotten—they get the soft blue. The parabolic curve patterns could look dated, yet they don’t.
Overall, a really informative article if you’ve ever wondered why our President’s plane didn’t match everything else in government that’s strictly red, white, and blue.