New Air Force One Could Be Delayed Another Year
GAO’s latest cost estimate brings the price tag to $2.6 billion apiece.
The arrival of two new $5 billion Air Force One presidential jets could be delayed by 12 months due to a dispute between Boeing and one of its suppliers, Air Force officials told lawmakers Tuesday. Boeing has told the Air Force they need the extra year to finish modifying the 747-8 airliners into flying White Houses. But like everything involved in this high-profile, multibillion-dollar project, that’s up for negotiation.
“We will assess all of that,” Darlene Costello, the service’s principal deputy assistant secretary of acquisition, technology, and logistics, said Tuesday at a House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee hearing.
A Boeing spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment.
Boeing has also told the Air Force it wants to recoup COVID-related costs for the project, but it has not requested funding, Costello said. In April, Boeing officials told investors that the company had lost $318 million on the Air Force One program, a total that includes pandemic-related costs and the dispute with a supplier that was supposed to build the interior of the planes.
The jets are being modified under a Pentagon contract signed in 2018 for $3.9 billion. Then-President Donald Trump took credit for the deal, which required Boeing, not taxpayers, to pay for any cost overruns.
“As soon as we get the updated schedule, we'll determine if we have to adjust our baseline or schedule,” Costello said.
Last month, Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson, the Air Force military deputy for acquisition, said that Boeing has not tried to “back away” from its contract.
When the original purchase of the plane and other aspects of the program factored in, each plane is expected to cost taxpayers $2.6 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office. That number could rise if the Air Force pays for Boeing’s COVID-related expenses.
The delays could force the service to overhaul the two existing Air Force One aircraft so they can safely fly the president.
“We may need to put in one more maintenance cycle for that aircraft, depending on the timing,” Costello said.
That overhaul work world largely be done by Boeing.
Whether the delay winds up being the full 12 months or something shorter, it all but guarantees that President Biden won’t fly on the new Air Force Ones unless he wins a second term. Boeing is supposed to deliver the first of the two new Air Force Ones by the end of 2024.