When the modified Boeing 747 VC-25A landed in Newquay last night, it was the first time it had landed in Cornwall. The UK press is now reporting that the airport must have spent almost £ 8million to upgrade facilities to accommodate large planes, but is that the whole story? Simple Flying takes a look.

President Biden arrived late last night on the VC-25A. Photo: Getty Images

Air Force One is back in the UK

The arrival of the US president has generated a lot of excitement in the UK this week. While some will eagerly await the political potential of the results of his visit, those who spend time at this site will be more excited about the prospect of glimpsing Air Force One.

The highly modified Boeing 747 VC-25A last visited the UK in June 2019, as President Trump arrived for a state visit. This time the giant VIP jet touched down at London Stansted, an airport conveniently close to London but quieter than Heathrow, with enough space to transfer the President safely.

This week, however, President Biden was not heading to the UK capital. Rather, his final destination was the far southwest of the UK, in the county of Cornwall, where world leaders are meeting this weekend for the G7 summit.

Air Force One, Joe Biden, United Kingdom
The modified Boeing 747 flew to Newquay in Cornwall. Photo: Getty Images

After visiting RAF Mildenhall to welcome the American troops stationed at the Air Force base, Biden left around 9:00 p.m., bound for the Westcountry. Air Force One landed at Cornwall’s main airport – Newquay (NQY) – just after 11:30 p.m.

Today UK media are reporting that improvements were needed to the track to accommodate the VIP 747. Changes which apparently cost the UK taxpayer £ 7.8million.

Track extension?

According to Time, the sum of at least £ 7.8million (around $ 11million) out of a budget of £ 13million has been spent to renovate the track. The money, it is claimed, was spent to lengthen the trail. But is that the whole story?

Newquay is no stranger to the 747s, having received a Queen of the Skies from British Airways from Cardiff in October last year.

While Newquay isn’t a major airport by anyone’s standards, it does have a pretty sizable runway. Although most commonly landed by Embraer and other small regional jets, its 8,986-foot length is sufficient to accommodate a 747, both for landing and take-off. So why was the upgrade necessary?

In March, Cornwall Council confirmed that it had received funds to modernize parts of the airport. It was said that in its present condition it could not “meet the needs of the types of aircraft that were coming”. In a statement, the Council said:

“The council very recently received a notification from the Cabinet Office of the government that it would provide a grant of £ 7.853 million to support the modernization work required at the airport in preparation for the G7 summit.”

Newquay Airport
Observers hoping to spot the VIP plane will be out of sight, with increased security around the airport. Photo: Getty Images

However, it is unlikely that this will involve a major lengthening of the runway or that it is directly related to the arrival of Air Force One. The President was also accompanied by a large US military aircraft, carrying several Osprey planes. It is more likely that any lengthening or reinforcement of the runway is more related to this arrival than to the 747.

Some of the money was also probably spent on modernizing the terminal facilities and ensuring that airport security was up to the standards required for the most important people in the world. Simple Flying has contacted Newquay Airport to clarify exactly what the money is for, but has not received a response at the time of publication.

Have you seen AF1 in UK this week? Are you hoping for positive results from the G7 summit? Let us know in the comments.



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Benjamin Steele

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