He has started using a much shorter and more stable set of stairs that fold out from the belly of the plane. He uses a shorter, more stable set of steps that are folded out of the belly of the aircraft. The shorter stairs are a great way to keep Biden’s entrance into Air Force One hidden from the public eye. The change was made after Biden tripped over a sandbag and fell on stage at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation. That’s when Biden tripped over a sandbag and fell on stage at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation.
The White House has mainly brushed aside questions about the change and won’t say much about it, other than there are a series of factors that go into whether he uses the short or tall stairs, including security, weather, and the availability of rolling staircases.
When Biden lands at an airport where officials roll out the red carpet to welcome him, he still uses the tall stairs.
On June 17, 2023, President Biden descends the steps of Air Force One upon his arrival in Philadelphia.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Presidential Biden grabs the handrail of the tall staircase as he stumbles when boarding Air Force One on March 19, 2021 at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
Gray has seen first-hand the problems that can arise when an older candidate fails. Earlier in his career, he helped set up the stage for a 1996 event in Chico, Calif. for Sen. Bob Dole, who at age 73 was running for president.
Gray had placed flimsy decorative white columns at the front edge. Gray explained that Bob Dole, for reasons nobody knows, decided to climb up the front edge of the stage, and then fell through. The whole thing was caught on video and replayed. It became a metaphor for the losing Dole campaign.
President Biden pointing as he walks on the steps of Air Force One, in Windsor Locks (Conn.), June 16, 2023.
Axelrod said he would not be concerned about Biden’s chances of reelection if he was 15 or 20 years older. The stairs are a direct hit on Biden's biggest weakness with voters. Axelrod stated that it is no secret that most people's questions are about age. Therefore, anything that emphasizes this point would be problematic. It would be much more problematic if, for example, he was injured on the steps to his plane. "
President Biden, on July 6, 2023, waves from Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland before he flies to South Carolina.
President Biden waves at Air Force One from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on July 6, 2023 before flying to South Carolina.
President Obama arrives at Hangzhou, China to attend the G20 Summit on September 3, 2016.
Before the Biden era, short stairs were used most often when the taller stairs became impractical due to security. In addition to vehicles for his motorcade, the U.S. Military often flies stairs to countries that the president visits.
When visiting a warzone, such as Iraq or Afghanistan, the U.S. military would not fly stairs into that area, because it could alert people to a secret presidential trip. Photos of U.S. presidents visiting U.S. forces overseas often show them arriving at night and using small stairs.
Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska. President Bush walking off the steps of Air Force One. After two planes crashed in the World Trade Center, on September 11, 2001.
During his four years as president, former President Donald Trump has used the short staircase more than Obama. However, he did so fewer times than Biden. Gray, who worked as an event planner for Trump, said the short stairs were a good option on windy days.
Air Force One with President Donald Trump on July 28, 2017, Joint Base Andrews in Maryland
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
After a vacation at Lake Tahoe in Nevada, President Biden will board Air Force One by using the short steps on August 26, 2023.