Deal finalized: $3.9B price tag for two Air Force One airplanes

Air Force One program managed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.


The White House and Boeing Co. reached a $3.9 billion informal deal to buy two Boeing 747-8 presidential airlifters, officials say.

The deal was announced more than a year since President Donald Trump criticized the cost and threatened to cancel buying a newer version of the Boeing 747.

The program, managed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is led by a two-star general and has about 100 employees in the Presidential Airlift Recapitalization Directorate at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center headquarters. Maj. Gen. Duke Richardson, the first to hold the top post in the new directorate, took over responsibility of the development of the jet in 2017.

RELATED: Military puts Wright Patt general in charge of Air Force One program

Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said that the president negotiated a $3.9 billion “fixed-price contract” for the new planes. It follows years of negotiations between Boeing and the Air Force — and Trump’s personal intervention since his election.

In December 2016, Trump tweeted that costs for the program were “out of control, more than $4 billion.” He added, “Cancel order!”

Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg met multiple times with Trump to discuss the Air Force One contract, most recently last week.

Boeing, in a statement, said it is “proud to build the next generation of Air Force One, providing American Presidents with a flying White House at outstanding value to taxpayers.”

“President Trump negotiated a good deal on behalf of the American people,” it said.

Gidley said the agreement would save taxpayers more than $1.4 billion.

The Los Angeles Times reported Gidley said in a subsequent email that the $5-billion figure was based on an older estimate from the Air Force “with a 50 percent assurance” and that, with new economic cost adjustments, the government cost figure would be right around or a little above $5 billion.

The Air Force did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this figure.

An Air Force budget document released in February projected the cost of the program through 2023 at $3.9 billion. Historically, yearly figures may change as an aircraft is developed.

RELATED: White House seeking new Air Force Ones

Richard Aboulafia, a senior aviation analyst with the Virginia-based Teal Group, told this newspaper the claim of savings was “theater.”

“The program has been $3.9 billion for quite some time,” he said in an interview Wednesday. The White House “just decided they would come up with a number that would credit them with saving $1.4 billion. But it doesn’t exist in any budget document that I can find.”

He questioned how the White House could reach a deal on a contract price on its own given the highly technical specifications that are part of extensive modifications required to turn a Boeing 747 into a fortified and secure presidential jet brimming with specialized gear.

“Sort of a funny part of all these negotiations is it’s not really clear where the savings would come from at the White House level,” he said. “… This needs to come from the Air Force. They’re the people who are competent in these matters.”

Wright-Patterson and Air Force spokespersons referred questions Wednesday to the White House.

Loren B. Thompson, a senior defense expert at the Virginia-based Lexington Institute and an industry consultant, said he expected the deal will turn out to be good for taxpayers.

“I think this probably ends up being a bargain for taxpayers because Boeing has signed up for a fixed-price contract” while the Air Force will likely want additional modifications before the plane takes flight, he said.

RELATED: Air Force One contract granted to Boeing

“In other words,” he added, “there will be new cost factors added into this plane before it flies that can’t be fully anticipated now but which Boeing is going to be on the hook to cover it as a fixed-price contract.”

Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at the non-partisan watchdog Project On Government Oversight in Washington, D.C., said he has seen estimates the next presidential jet could cost between $3 billion and upwards to the White House estimate of about $5 billion.

“This program is still in its infancy, so any government figures will almost certainly be low,” he said in an email, adding the deal appeared to initially save money but costs historically rise on defense projects even on budgets for fixed-price contracts.

“This still seems like a rather expensive program to me,” Grazier added. “We aren’t really buying anything new. The president currently flies in a modified Boeing 747. … There are certainly a great deal of classified security features that are unique to the presidential aircraft, but I don’t really understand why we have to spend so much on development to produce a newer version of what we already have.”

The Dayton Daily News reported in November 2016 that the White House urgently needed two new presidential jets.

The jetliner is an airborne command post the commander-in-chief would rely on when the nation is under attack, as former President George W. Bush did when terrorists hijacked U.S. airliners and destroyed the World Trade Center and slammed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

“The real challenge and the challenge that is forcing us to buy newer aircraft for the president is to overcome the fact that there are heroics going on every day to keep the current aircraft flying and it’s becoming way too expensive and way too difficult to do that,” Kevin W. Buckley, former Mobility Directorate program executive officer, said in an interview in 2016.

The two new aircraft are scheduled to join the Air Force One fleet in 2024.

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson has put its sights on acquiring one of the retiring Boeing 747-200 aircraft, designated as VC-25s in the military, but the Air Force has made no announcement where it will land.

The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times contributed to this story.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in News

'Don't cry, daddy. I love you': New families celebrate National Adoption Day
'Don't cry, daddy. I love you': New families celebrate National Adoption Day

It was a very special day for dozens of Massachusetts families as 136 children in foster care got their forever homes. Three-year-old Josiah was one of 26 children with finalized adoptions in Boston as a part of National Adoption Day.  "Today we are adopting Josiah! After six months, he was going to move. And I looked at him, and I said....
Man who raped dying teen sentenced to less than 3 years in prison 
Man who raped dying teen sentenced to less than 3 years in prison 

The man who raped a high school student who later died from a drug overdose was sentenced to less than three years in prison. Superior Court Judge Linda Krese said that Brian Varela could not be sentenced to more than two years and 10 months because it was the most prison time permitted for someone with no prior criminal record, The Daily Herald reported...
Springfield Promise Neighborhood gives away 150 thanksgiving meals
Springfield Promise Neighborhood gives away 150 thanksgiving meals

Springfield Promise Neighborhood, a nonprofit, gave away 150 Thanksgiving meals Friday. Five schools were picked to give away the meals, and each school chose 30 families. Aldi provided turkey, traditional sides and dessert, and volunteers from Aldi passed out the meals. “We just wanted to show appreciation both to Aldi to be able to do that...
Court docs: Woman who abandoned 3 dogs with mange, fleas said they were strays
Court docs: Woman who abandoned 3 dogs with mange, fleas said they were strays

A New Carlisle woman was in court Friday accused of abandoning three dogs, and lying about it. Patricia A. Sharp, 49, identified three female dogs as strays when she brought them on Oct. 30 to the Clark County Dog Shelter. The dogs, described as a shar-pei mix, Labrador retriever mix and pit mix, all had a severe skin infection, mange, and were infested...
Baby born in toilet of public restroom at Sea-Tac International Airport
Baby born in toilet of public restroom at Sea-Tac International Airport

A baby born earlier this week will have quite a story to tell of how he came into the world, in a place you may least expect.  Wyatt Dale was born in the toilet of a public restroom at Sea-Tac International Airport. His parents, Heather and Billy Gibbs, were about to board a flight on Tuesday night to head home to Kentucky. That’s when Heather...
More Stories