President Biden is traveling to England today, but is Cornwall's runway long enough to accommodate Air Force One?
For the first time since taking the office of President of the United States of America, Joe Biden will make his way to Europe to meet with world leaders. On Wednesday, President Biden will fly to the United Kingdom for the G7 Summit ahead of its start on Friday, June 11, at Carbis Bay Hotel on the Cornish coast.
But the Presidential convoy isn't exactly small — like the Cornish coast it'll be traveling to. President Biden and his entourage, including his wife Dr. Jill Biden, will fly to England on the world-famous Air Force One.
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Air Force One, a designated VC-25A specially designed Boeing 747 with a shorter upper-deck hump, is big. It offers the traveling President 4,000 square feet of space onboard — nothing the average traveler would be used to seeing on a 747.
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According to the President's public schedule for Wednesday, June 9, President and First Lady Biden are expected to depart Joint Base Andrews (ADW) outside of Washington, D.C. at 8:30 a.m. ET (1:30 p.m. GMT).
Air Force One will then fly the President 3,678 miles to Royal Air Force Mildenhall (MHZ) in Suffolk, England, where it's expected to arrive around 8 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET). While it's a Royal Air Force station, Mildenhall is primarily used by the U.S. Air Force and is "the only permanent U.S. air refueling wing in the European theatre," according to the base.
Given it's an RAF base where U.S. Air Force are based, Air Force One will have no difficulties landing at or departing from RAF Mildenhall. The runway at Mildenhall is 9,221 feet in length, according to the base, which is enough for the light 747 to land at and depart from, especially given the short distance of its next flight.
President Biden is expected to deliver remarks and meet with U.S. Air Force personnel at RAF Mildenhall shortly after his arrival — at 8:45 p.m. local time (3:45 p.m. ET) on Wednesday.
Air Force One will then depart Mildenhall at 9:30 p.m. local time (4:30 p.m.), bound for Newquay Airport (NQY) in Cornwall — a 272-mile journey. The modified 747 is expected to arrive at NQY at 10:55 p.m. local time (5:55 p.m. ET), where the President and First Lady will then be transported to their final destination in St. Ives — at the Tregenna Castle Resort.
But, is Newquay Airport actually big enough to accommodate the superjumbo Air Force One, as well as the aircraft for other world leaders in attendance? Surprisingly enough, the answer is — in most cases — yes.
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Newquay Airport (NQY) is one of the smaller passenger airports in U.K. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Newquay, Cornwall's main airport, saw just 461,478 passengers transiting to, from or through the airport in 2019, according to the Civil Aviation Authority — making it the thirtieth-busiest airport in the country. By point of comparison, more than 80 million transited through Heathrow, more than four million transited through London City (LCY) and more than 836,000 transited through the airport on the Isle of Man.
But, even for such a small airport that typically doesn't handle commercial aircraft larger than regional planes, it's got capabilities to handle much larger jets. The runway at NQY is 8,986 feet in length, which is enough space for Air Force one to land and depart — especially if it's carrying a lighter load.
TPG reached out to Newquay Airport to confirm that Air Force One would be landing at the airport on Wednesday evening but did not receive a response by time of publication.
In March, Newquay Airport received £7.8 million (about $11 million) in funding to use for upgrades to the premises ahead of the G7 Summit. At the time, the council said that in its state, it could not support "the needs of the aircraft types that will be arriving.”
During the pandemic, Newquay Airport largely remained closed to commercial flights. The airport's operations were further hampered by the demise of Flybe, the U.K. regional carrier that operated to the holiday destination in Cornwall. In the aftermath of the U.K.'s third national lockdown and anticipated "summer of the staycation," Newquay Airport is expecting a massive rebound in traffic. In fact, it's expecting its busiest summer ever with 10 different airlines — ranging from British Airways to EasyJet, Edelweiss, Loganair, Blue Islands and more — operating to and from the airport.
While President Biden is in Cornwall, he will utilize helicopters, as well as an armored car to transport him around. Local media in Cornwall this week reported that two helicopters, which were surrounded by three V-22 Ospreys, could be seen flying in and out of Tregenna Castle Resort, where the Bidens will stay in Cornwall. When the President is onboard one of the helicopters, it's dubbed Marine One.
The G7 Summit, which is an organization made up of the world's seven largest economies, includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. Leaders from the countries, as well as a few who have received special invitations this year — India, South Korea and Australia, as well as representatives from the EU — will descend on Cornwall this week.
The main topic to be discussed at the Summit will be how the nations can join forces to aid in COVID-19 recovery, as well as climate change and trade. The travel industry is also hopeful that by having President Biden and Prime Minister Borris Johnson in the same room, there may be some discussions on the possibility of opening a travel corridor between the two countries.