Boeing has commenced modification on the first of two 747-8 aircraft, to be known as the new Air Force One, at its facility in San Antonio, Texas, US.

The two modified 747-8 aircraft will replace the current presidential transport aircraft VC-25A, which is operated by the US Air Force (USAF).

Under the VC-25B programme, the aircraft will be designed, modified, tested and delivered to serve for the next three decades.

The programme is managed by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate.

The VC-25B programme will include performing electrical power upgrades, installation of a mission communication system and medical facility.

Boeing 747-8 aircraft will also be provided with improved executive interior and autonomous ground operations capabilities. Aircraft operations are expected to commence in 2024.

The first phase of the programme will involve cutting out large skin and structure areas in both the forward and aft lower lobes of the aircraft.

This will be followed by the installation of newly manufactured super panels, which have been structurally enhanced and contain cutouts for the aircraft’s lower lobe doors.

This phase will also include internal airstairs for mission requirements.

Modification work on the aircraft began with the removal of foreign object debris (FOD) from the facility and aircraft.

Before modification, the plane’s commercial interiors, engines, auxiliary power units and numerous secondary system components were removed.

A jacking and crib mechanism was placed under each aircraft to reduce structural stress on the vehicle.

Presidential & Executive Airlift Air Force programme executive officer brigadier general Ryan Britton said: “Air Force One is a symbol of our nation that is instantly recognisable worldwide.

“This is an exciting time as we take the initial steps to create these unique aircraft that the team and I brag are the most important aircraft in the world.”