Air Force One flight attendants: A few good men (and women)

When I think of Air Force One flight attendants, I tend to drift towards images from the movie “Air Force One” where Harrison Ford plays the U.S. President. Things did not bode too well for that crew.

In real life, Air Force One attendants don’t find themselves in a battle of wills with terrorists, but juggling a myriad of duties designed to make airplane trips comfortable and welcoming for the important government officials who use the plane to wing around the globe on official government business. Sometimes, this might be the President; sometimes, it’s not. You might be serving up a breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks to Vice President Dick Cheney or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, or whoever else is important enough to get a ride.

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article that gives an in depth look at what happens on board and behind the scenes from a flight attendant’s vantage point.

If you’re a bit Martha Stewartish, it helps. One attendant’s highlight was making sugar cookies shaped like Texas. It’s not that easy. Frankly, I’d try New Mexico or Colorado. Those are more rectangular. These Texas shaped treats were offered to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Bush Senior who loved them. I should hope so. The woman who made them screwed up the first batch and made them again at home.

Besides cookie baking, you need to plan meals, shop for the groceries, cook the meals, serve the meals, clean up after the meals, and somewhere in the midst of this, load and unload suitcases. Before you head off the plane at the end of a shift, carpet sweeping is another must-do. Just thinking about that makes me tired. I’d be awful.

So what are the perks? Traveling around the world for one thing. The pay isn’t bad either. $40,000 is the starting salary. This is more than people start out making on commercial flights. The work load sounds a bit easier than what Skybus crews have to do. At least you’re not walking up and down the aisles trying to sell stuff. “Mr. President, can I interest you in a cinnamon bun? How about a Clif bar? A fresh mint?”

If being an attendant is something you’d be interested in, there’s a possibility that the 89th Airlift Wing, (under which Air Force one is part of) is hiring. You might not work on Air Force One, though. There are 16 other luxury planes that also fly dignitaries from here to there. Finding people who fit the profile of what the wing wants is not easy. Keeping your mouth shut about where you’re going and what happens on board is one requirement. One hitch, I think, is that you have to be enlisted in the Air Force. That’s what my understanding is after reading the article. Regardless of whether one wants to do a job like this one, this is a look at one of those professions people often don’t know exist.