Everywhere Trump Traveled Before Air Force One
Jet away with flight data from the billionaire's private fleet.
President Donald Trump finally took his first foreign trip—after waiting longer than any president since Lyndon Johnson—raising an intriguing question about his past: Where did he travel when he was just Private Citizen Trump?
Federal Aviation Administration flight records for his aircraft, obtained by Bloomberg through the Freedom of Information Act and mapped by our data visualization team, help answer that question while also raising a few new ones.
The data cover three aircraft: his Boeing 757 with gold-plated seatbelt buckles, known as Trump Force One during the campaign; a Cessna 750 Citation X jet; and a Sikorsky helicopter. The flight dates run from the aircrafts’ registration through Nov. 8, 2016, the day before the election. While some Trump flight data have previously been published, this span includes flights that had been blocked by commercial tracking services starting in September 2015, “per request from owner/operator.”
As a result, the data now provide a detailed record of an historic presidential campaign. And they reveal a before-and-after picture. Until he became a candidate, Trump’s aircraft rarely visited “flyover country” between the coasts, with such exceptions as casino hub Las Vegas and ski resorts Vail and Aspen.
One of the most striking things about these maps is what’s missing: no apparent flights to Russia. Given the multiple probes of his campaign’s links to Moscow, and deep curiosity about Trump’s business ties there, it’s an obvious thing to check. But there are none. Not even in November 2013, when Trump is known to have visited Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant. In fact, the data don’t show any foreign travel that month. So how’d he get there? Did someone give him a lift? Or did he (gasp) fly commercial? The White House referred questions to the Trump Organization. Trump Organization General Counsel Alan Garten, through an outside spokeswoman, declined to comment.
To be sure, the data have limits. There’s no indication of who is actually on the flights. And the FAA’s traffic records include only “flights that operated under instrument flight rules (IFR), or under visual flight rules (VFR) and were tracked by air traffic control in a radar environment.” One gap can be found in a 2012 Ireland-Turkey-Georgia-Scotland itinerary that appears to be missing its Turkey-to-Georgia leg.
Given the luxury to fly anywhere on the globe, Trump appeared to stay close to home. (He is, of course, an admitted germaphobe who in January warned that that when going abroad, “Be very careful, because in your hotel rooms and no matter where you go, you’re gonna probably have cameras.”) His fleet’s rare foreign jaunts line up with well-publicized business events, such as a May 2014 inspection of his Dubai golf project.
One foreign route, however, does pop out for its frequency: nine round trips to St. Maarten, the Dutch Caribbean country. They begin in 2013, when Trump bought an estate on the French side of the island, St. Martin, and end just as he was starting to run for president. The property, Le Château des Palmiers, has recently been in the news because Trump has put it up for sale for a reported $28 million—raising fresh questions about buyers potentially overpaying to curry favor with the president.
—With assistance from Caleb Melby and Justin Sink