The Air Force is close to awarding a contract to purchase two Boeing 747’s once destined for Russia to serve as the future Air Force One presidential airplane.
“We’re working through the final stages of coordination to purchase two commercial 747-8 aircraft and expect to award a contract soon,” said Ann Stefanek, Air Force deputy chief of media operations.
Details regarding the cost of the plane are still being finalized, with an announcement slated this week. News of the negotiations was reported earlier by the trade publication Defense One; it was confirmed Tuesday by the Air Force.
“We’re still working toward a deal to provide two 747-8s to the Air Force — we’re really focused on providing a great value for the Air Force and the best price for the taxpayer,” Boeing spokeswoman Caroline Hutcheson said in a statement.
The cost of the presidential airplane became an unexpected point of contention in the weeks before President Trump took office. Trump tweeted that the program’s $4 billion expenditures were “out of control,” singling out Boeing for cost overruns and saying the order should be canceled.
Now it appears Boeing has found a way to cut some of the cost in selling two 747-8 jetliners that had been originally ordered by Russian airline Transaero. Transaero went bankrupt two years later and never paid Boeing for the order, so the planes remained with Boeing in storage.
Even if the planes come in at a lower price tag than the average for a 747-8, which Boeing lists at $386.8 million, purchasing the plane itself would be just the first step in the process of standing up the next Air Force One. Next, a group of subcontractors would work to outfit the planes with state-of-the-art protective measures and advanced communication systems that will add to the ultimate price tag.