Americas - Issue 90 - Magazine | Monocle

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Me and my motorcade No. 59

Cars we can believe in


It’s almost impossible to miss a presidential road convoy rolling into town. First there are the flashing lights from the requisite police cars accompanying the pack, supported by a lone ambulance at the rear. In the middle, a black serpent of stretched cars – including decoys – and giant SUVs completes the picture. When it comes to making an entrance, no one does it quite like the US president and his motorcade.

Of course, the Hollywood-style razzmatazz behind this ceremony has always had clear historical purpose. “It provides a way to be able to communicate power,” says Brandon Rottinghaus, a political-science associate professor at the University of Houston.

Much of the president’s motorcade is already a global brand, none better known than Air Force One: currently a fleet of two customised Boeing 747-200B aircraft. But the fleet is ageing and Boeing is expected to update it, modelling the new aircraft on the 747-8 frame. Not that Obama – who is now in his last year in power – will benefit from a souped-up version of what he has joked is the biggest perk of the job; the planes are slated for completion around 2023.

When on shorter trips Obama travels by green-hued helicopter, often making quite an entrance on the White House South Lawn. The 20-plus squadron, operated by the Marines, comprises off-shoots of the Sikorsky Sea King helicopter. A multimillion-dollar project is underway to replace them after a previous attempt at modernisation stalled in 2005.

Last but not least in the presidential repertoire is Obama’s presidential limousine, popularly nicknamed “The Beast”. Branded as a Cadillac and based loosely on GM’s Kodiak model, it can seat seven and features eight-inch-thick armour plating.

Air Force One (Boeing 747-200B)
Two planes with the respective tail codes of 28000 and 29000; the Air Force designation for the aircraft is VC-25A. Embossed with the seal of the president to maximise brand appeal.

Marine One (Sikorsky Sea King VH-60N/VH-3D)
Based in Quantico, Virginia, the presidential helicopter isn’t your average chopper: it has to fit up to 14 people and include a commander in chief “restroom”.

Cadillac One
Produced by General Motors and commonly known as “The Beast”, the current limo has been in operation since 2009 and is a heavily modified hybrid of several different Cadillac models.

Ground Force One
The unofficial name for the black bespoke buses occasionally used to transport Obama with a large team (such as when he was seeking re-election in 2012). Produced in Quebec by Prevost.

Extreme measures

Montréal [TERRORISM]

Montréal is pioneering a new approach to terrorism: getting to extremists before it’s too late. The Centre for Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence has a hotline for families who are worried about their children or relatives drifting towards extremism.

“You can’t confront a person with his or her ideology,” says Meriem Rebbani-Gosselin, a community-development officer with the organisation. “Violent radicalisation is usually the result of some sort of identity crisis, so it has to be about giving a person options and drawing on the community around them for support.” It is a project that cities around the world should watch closely.

Piece of the action

Bolivia [SUPPORT]

China may be the most influential world power in South America but Russia looks like it wants in on the act. Not content with cuddling up to Brazil and Argentina, Russia is providing technological assistance for a power plant in the Bolivian Andean city of El Alto (literally “The Tall One”), set to break ground in the first quarter of 2016.

The $300m (€275m) project is being promoted by president Evo Morales, whose continued rule will be put to the ballot in a February referendum. The indigenous leader has also earmarked Bolivia’s lithium reserves as an essential resource – and China would be a key market.

Dam right

California [CLIMATE]

With this year’s “Godzilla” El Niño touted as one of the strongest on record, California is braced for a deluge. The conundrum faced by the Golden State is how to best capture those drought-busting rains.

Given that El Niño isn’t expected to erase the state’s four-year drought, Californians have been investing in Aquifer Storage Recovery, also referred to as “injection wells” or “recharge wells”; stowing large volumes of water underground is generally cheaper and less environmentally damaging than building a dam and reservoir. As extreme climate-related events increase, decision-makers will be monitoring how California copes with its precipitation predicament.

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