Inside the world of presidential campaign charters

Elections in the United States see some of the most powerful people in the country throw themselves into the campaign trail. The number of stops on this track depends a lot on the candidate. For example, in the last three weeks of the last general election, President Trump made 48 stops in 15 states, while President Biden participated in 23 events in 10 states.

All this trip is not easy to organize. Besides the logistics of managing large groups of people and the security of presidential candidates, their physical movement from place to place must be coordinated with the precision of a symphony orchestra.

Simple Flying caught up with Simon Moore, SVP of Group Charter at Air Partner USA, to find out more about what’s going on in safely transporting presidential hopefuls during the campaign trail. Air Partner is a specialty broker that has been extensively involved in government air charters and has served multiple candidates over the past two presidential cycles.

Within the team, Air Partner has a combined 80 years of experience in political travel logistics, including a veteran former presidential campaign staffer and a former White House travel office manager on his team. . Although there is still time before the next presidential election, midterm elections are looming later this year and transportation planning is already in full swing.

Simon Moore is Senior Vice President of Group Charter at Air Partner USA. Photo: airline partner

Simon Moore noted that Air Partner expects the bulk of the activity to take place as Election Day approaches. He said,

“We expect the bulk of campaign charters to take place in the last week before Election Day. This is when candidates plan trips to multiple cities per day to maximize exposure to local voters and media.

“We will identify the best-suited operators and teams for each campaign based on location and ability to respond quickly to last-minute requests. Our team will then also have negotiated cost-effective rates and have a good understanding of each candidate’s preferences on aircraft, crews and overall service needs.

What happens in the flight of a future president?

Planning the transport of high-level politicians and their entourages is not an easy task. From the campaign announcement tour, to the primaries, to the national convention, and finally the general election campaign, each leg of the journey requires different aircraft and crew capabilities. The only constant throughout the process is Air Partner, ensuring continuity throughout.

Simon Moore described the crucial role Air Partner plays with campaign teams. He told us,

“Air Partner becomes a close-knit complement to the campaign operations staff. As a liaison between the planning office at headquarters and the forward teams in the field, we ensure that every detail is ironed out and clearly communicated in a timely manner to all parties.

The work for Air Partner begins well before the start of the campaign cycle, as all elements of charter travel must be in place and ready to go in good time. The team begins by exploring the business jet and commercial aircraft market, building relationships with operators in the early voting states of Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Since the 1960s, presidential candidates have embraced aviation to travel more efficiently on their campaign trails. Photo: Getty Images

At the same time, Air Partner provides essential advisory services to campaign staff, who – understandably – are pulled in all directions when launching a campaign and have little time or energy to devote to travel arrangements. . As such, Air Partner leverages its industry expertise to ensure the process is as smooth and simple as possible, as Simon explained,

“This includes discussions of aircraft types, costs, aircraft types that can or cannot land at certain often-visited airfields, aircraft types that will need fuel stops, prepare them for obstacles and unavoidable mechanical events.”

Choose planes and people

Over the years, there have been all kinds of aircraft involved in presidential campaigns. Mitt Romney’s MD-83 was once U2’s 360 touring plane, while Vice President Paul Ryan flew in a 42-year-old DC-9. John McCain flew in a 737, while Obama had a larger 757 – as did John Kerry in 2004 and George Bush in 2000. Sarah Palin’s 2008 commute was an E190, while Trump’s Republican rivals in 2016 , Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both chose Cessna Citations.

The choice of aircraft and operator will often be dictated by the specifics of the mission. Photo: Getty Images

The choice of aircraft and crew will depend on the missions planned for the campaign. Candidates and their staff, as well as the embedded press corps, need a home away from home, a place that is equally suited to productive work on the road and efficient delivery to their destination. . Moore explained the process of choosing the aircraft and operator for charters, saying:

“We pride ourselves on offering the highest security standards in the industry for all of our customers when it comes to sourcing aircraft and crews. Having had members in the shoes of the campaign team, we ensure that extra steps are taken to ensure that an operator and crew are familiar with the type of client they will be flying.

“We are working on behalf of the campaign to ensure that crew members are made aware of things ranging from specific dietary requirements to how and when to approach and interact with often tired and busy traveling staff – without infringing federal aviation rules. This also includes a smooth transition to travel with the US Secret Service, where appropriate.

Airports must also be informed and prepared to receive these high profile visitors. Photo: Getty Images

Of course, it’s not just planes and people who need to be ready to welcome presidential candidates. Airports need to be thoroughly briefed and prepared, which is another part of the Air Partner service. This ranges from pre-positioning the motorcade, securing phone lines and meeting rooms, to supplying and positioning stairs, belt loaders, supply boats and catering partners. Moore added,

“The campaign team on the ground relies on Air Partner to quickly get up-to-date information on departure and arrival times, coordinate crew exchanges, catering delivery and all the details of the aircraft, especially in the event of a tail number change.

“It is essential for a broker to understand that our flight information sheets are a key part of the campaign staff’s daily schedule sent to the advance team. Our contribution provides the guidance they need for the arrival and departure aspect of the day’s events.

The level of coordination needed to plan these campaign charters is phenomenal. High levels of security mean that everything has to happen in a certain order, so the Secret Service can make sure the area remains secure after they sweep it. Catering must also be implemented thoughtfully – often flights are the only time these busy campaign teams have a chance to eat, and no one wants a ham sandwich every day for six months.

It’s a hidden side of politics that we don’t often see. Our sincere thanks to Air Partner for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the campaign flight.


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