A couple of DC10 aircraft that used to carry Freddie Laker's passengers before his airline went bankrupt now could find a home in the fleet of President Ronald Reagan.
Five of Laker's three-engine McDonnell Douglas aircraft already are the property of the government's Export-Import Bank of the United States. The bank, which provides loans on favorable terms to foreign buyers of U.S.-made products, had extended Laker an $86 million loan and had guaranteed repayment of another $61 million Laker borrowed elsewhere. It ended up with primary title to the aircraft after the colorful Briton's airline failed.
Government sources said yesterday the planes aren't under immediate consideration as presidential aircraft but confirmed that the Air Force, which is responsible for the White House fleet, is looking into whether it has other requirements for the Laker planes.
The Air Force is said to believe the DC10s could serve several functions, including use by some classified missions that need bigger, longer-range planes and as trainers for the KC10 tanker version of the DC10 the military operates.
If the Air Force decides to acquire the DC10s, one option to be explored later would be whether the aircraft could sensibly replace the aging Boeing 707s now used as Air Force 1 and 2, sources said.
The White House was described as "neutral to disinterested" in the matter of replacing the aircraft. But sources said the two 707 aircraft -- one 10 years old and the other pushing 20 -- won't meet stricter noise-reduction requirements that come into effect in a few years, and could prove an embarrassment if not replaced.
An Air Force source emphasized yesterday that they were in the "early stages" of establishing requirements for the eventual replacement of the 707s.