During his presidency, Donald Trump pushed to change Air Force One's color scheme from light blue and white to red, white, and dark blue. (edit Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

In a revelation that shows how color theory can have real-world implications, former President Donald Trump’s decision to change Air Force One’s traditional paint scheme might have billion-dollar consequences for Boeing, the airplane’s manufacturer. “Air Force One” technically refers to any aircraft carrying the president of the United States, but usually denotes a pair of Boeing 747-200B series aircraft that, since the 1960s, feature a mostly white paint job with light blue accents.

After making much hay in the press over his 2017 decision to authorize a new generation of presidential planes at a price tag of $3.9 billion, Trump revealed his intention to switch from that color scheme to a more patriotic red, white, and dark blue — a chromatic choice that could make the aircraft hotter, requiring expensive modifications to ensure proper cooling, Politico reported this week.

There was also a stipulation within the deal negotiated between Boeing and the United States Air Force that set the contract at a fixed price, meaning that the cost of the redesign would fall on Boeing rather than the US government. That decision must be haunting the manufacturer now, as the change of aesthetics might cost Boeing even more than the $1.1 billion they’ve already sunk into the deal.

The traditional color scheme (via Wikimedia Commons)

“The red, white, and blue paint scheme was one of many possible livery colors proposed for the VC-25B,” Air Force Spokesperson Ann Stefanek told Hyperallergic. “Further analysis concluded darker colors, among other factors, on the underside of the VC-25B aircraft might contribute to temperatures exceeding the current qualification limits of a small number of components on the aircraft.”

Of course, with Trump no longer in office, it will fall to President Joe Biden to make the call about whether or not to uphold his predecessor’s plans for an exterior makeover on the aircraft. In January 2021, former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during a press conference that “the president has not spent a moment thinking about the color scheme of Air Force One.”

This is only the latest twist in a saga over Air Force One that rivals Ulysses in length and tedious detail. It is unclear whether the manufacturer will still make the expected 2024 deadline for delivery on the planes, hampered both by the logistics of paint analysis and challenges in finding enough skilled mechanics to complete the work, according to Defense One.

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit — including at the Detroit Institute of Arts....