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01/22/2015 04:17 pm ET Updated Mar 24, 2015

What Is It Like to Fly on Air Force One... With a Famous Astronaut?


What"s it like to fly on Air Force One?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Answer by Peter Marquez, Former White House Director for Space Policy

It's awesome. I only got to fly on her once.

The staff is amazing and after flying on AF1 you will NEVER want to fly commercial again.

The experience starts before you even get on the plane. You are transported from the White House to Andrews and you get to drive right up to the airplane and leave the vehicle and walk up into the plane (Only the president and his close staff get the Marine 1 transport to Andrews).

It's very comfortable -- huge seats, desks and tables for working. A full conference room with flat screens and video teleconferencing capability. There's a computer room with Internet access.

One of the greatest things about AF1 has nothing to do with the aircraft itself -- it's the people that make AF1 run. All of the AF1 staff appear to really enjoy their jobs and they take great pride in their work. It definitely appeared that none of them took this great opportunity for granted. They are also well versed in the history of AF1 and can tell you stories about all the previous AF1s.

The trip I was on was very short. We were flying from DC to Kennedy Space Center for a speech President Obama was giving.

During the flight I had been helping to work and rework a speech the President was about to give. He kept coming out of his cabin with more edits and changes. After another round of edits from the boss an attendant looked at me and asked if I needed anything. I jokingly said, "Yes, a nice strong drink. Preferably a single malt" (it was about 9 or 10AM). Without pausing the attendant asks, "what brand and what year?" I had to tell him I was joking.

In addition to my colleagues and a few members of Congress we also had Buzz Aldrin on the flight. Dr. Aldrin was seated next to me at our table and he starts to get a bit fidgety, he looks around, and he says, "You wanna go take a look around?"

So I stop working for a minute and Dr. Aldrin and I start checking out AF1. We make it over to the stairs that lead to the upper deck and cockpit and one of the staff members asks if we want to head upstairs and check out the cockpit. Dr. Aldrin got a big smile on his face and looked at me -- we were both smiling like little kids. Did we want to see the cockpit of AF1? Seriously? You have to ask?

So Dr. Aldrin and I make it up to the flight deck and all of the Air Force officers are in awe of this moon walker and here's Buzz Aldrin happy as a little kid because he's hanging out in the cockpit of AF1. Dr. Aldrin goes into the cockpit and I stand outside of it with my head sticking through the doorway. So here I am -- essentially a nobody and I'm hanging out in the cockpit of AF1, with the pilots, while AF1 is in flight, and I'm with Buzz Aldrin. Somewhere back in time the 10 year old version of me was saying, "You have got to be kidding me..."

It was way too short of a flight.

But just a couple of more interesting bits.

First, as we started to descend I instinctively went back to my seat and buckled up. But I noticed a lot of the other "frequent flyers" were still up and walking around. So I asked one of them, "When are we supposed to sit down?" They just kind of laughed at my "noob question" and said something to the effect of --"You don't really have to sit down at all just watch how the pilot lands this thing." So people were still up and walking around as the plane landed. For someone who had only flown commercial it was a fascinating to me for some reason. Sure enough, the pilot put her down like a feather and came to a gentle stop.

Second, we landed on the space shuttle runway. Another thing that blew my mind. Of course we were going to an event at Kennedy Space Center so the closest runway is the space shuttle runway -- but landing in AF1 on the space shuttle runway was more mind blowing then not having to sit down during landing.

Finally, you get a bill for the food you eat on AF1 (this may be the only thing AF1 has in common with United). Since you are eating a meal on AF1 you are doing so at taxpayer expense. This means you have to reimburse the government for whatever you ate. That's completely fair and the right thing to do but it's something you wouldn't immediately consider when flying on AF1. So about a week after my AF1 flight I got a bill sent to me for the lunch I ate on AF1. That bill made for a great souvenir.

So to paraphrase philosopher Ferris Bueller -- "It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend..."

I forgot one more thing -- if you make a phone call from AF1 it's routed through a couple of operators who sit up on the flight deck. They make the outgoing call for you and then they connect you to the person once they make the call. The cool part is that when they call person for you they say something to the effect of (my memory is a bit fuzzy here), "This is Air Force One, we have a call from can you hold while I connect you?" I think just receiving a call from AF1 would be amazing.

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