Trump, Boeing finalize deal for new Air Force One aircraft

Andrew Cummings
March 2, 2018

The pact helps set the stage for a modernized Air Force One program after Trump criticized its cost, threatened to cancel the order and later boasted of pushing Boeing to reduce the expense.

Trump met with Boeing executives last Tuesday in the White House to finalize the deal.

The negotiations covered the overhaul of two 747 airliners. According to an official with knowledge of the program, though, the total cost estimate was always over $5 billion - the official explained that Trump simply "was given bad information in 2016" when he tweeted that the cost was $4 billion. A Boeing official said that Air Force One includes a "communications suite, internal and external stairs, large galleys and other equipment".

A Boeing official also told ABC News the president wants the planes ready by 2021.

The Air Force said it saved some money previous year when the president reached a deal with the Chicago-based planemaker for two 747 jumbo jets to serve as Air Force One, taking advantage of an unusual limited-time discount on planes once bound for Russian Federation. Since the cost to complete the program was listed as "continuing", Aboulafia said it could be reasonable to expect costs near or a little higher than $4 billion.

In August a year ago, reports emerged saying that the US Air Force (USAF) was looking at purchasing two 747s that were originally built for a Russian airliner which went bankrupt in 2015.

During the transition, then president-elect Trump protested against Boeing's initial asking price. When that deal fell through, the Air Force acquired the aircraft at a slightly discounted price.

The meeting, which was not on the President's daily schedule, came after almost a year of lower-level meetings between Pentagon procurement officials and Boeing executives that, at times, reached deadlock. This will include two planes, the custom tailoring to the President's needs and a hangar to keep them in.

The cost of the airframes represents a relatively small percentage of the price tag, however. The cost question concerned the modification process - the conversion of normal jetliners into Air Force One. That would put the original cost estimates at more than $5 billion.

The White House official said the new deal with Boeing would be "managed through over and above contract line items that will be negotiated concurrently with this final contract".

Quality and safety will not be compromised due to the price cut, the administration said. The company is a major defense contractor with about $26 billion worth of sales from United States government contracts in 2015, which amounted to 27% of its annual revenue.

The current Air Force One 747 jets are nearing the end of their 30-year design lifetime, and the plans for replacing them have been in the works for years.

Other reports by iNewsToday