WASHINGTON—President-elect Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that he would cancel Boeing’s contract to build a new fleet of presidential aircraft to replace the aging Reagan-era models that currently shuttle the president around the world. Trump cited “out of control” costs of more than $4 billion in a tweet that ended with “Cancel order!”
Trump later told reporters the cost was “ridiculous” and that he wanted the aircraft maker to “make a lot of money, but not that much money.”
Here’s a look at Trump’s claims about Air Force One, one of the most recognized airborne symbols of the American presidency.
How Much Will The Project Cost?
The Government Accountability Office, the government’s auditing arm, in March of this year estimated total program costs at more than $3.2 billion between the 2010 and 2020 federal budget years. Separately, Defense Department and Air Force officials say two new aircraft could cost at least $4 billion for development, construction and future maintenance, matching the figure Trump cited. The officials were not authorized to comment publicly about the sensitive military project and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Why Does The Government Want New Planes? Doesn’t The Current Air Force One Work Just Fine?
While that is true, the current aircraft that the president uses for the bulk of his foreign and domestic travel are getting older and breaking down more often, officials say. Two variants of a Boeing 747 are in rotation. The planes were built in the 1980s and began flying in the early 1990s. One took President Barack Obama on a trip to MacDill Air Force in Tampa, Florida, on Tuesday.
Air Force One, the distinctive blue-and-white plane with the U.S. flag on its tail and the presidential seal, is basically a flying office for the president, complete with sophisticated communications, military and other capabilities. Safety of the president is paramount, and the government started the process to replace the aging aircraft with younger versions that take advantage of the most-up-to-date advances in technology.
Air Force One is unlike most aircraft. It can be refueled in the air and, with an unlimited range, can take the president wherever he needs to go. Its electrical systems are hardened to protect against an electromagnetic pulse, and the plane has advanced secure communications equipment that will allow it to function as mobile command center in the event of an attack on the United States, according to the White House.
The president and most of those who travel with him aboard Air Force One enjoy 4,000 square feet of floor space on three levels, including a suite for the president with an office and a conference room. A medical suite that can function as an operating room, in an emergency, and a doctor is always on board. The plane has quarters for those who regularly accompany the president on trips, including White House staff, Secret Service agents, traveling journalists and other guests.
What Is Boeing’s Role In The Project?
So far, the Air Force has spent about $170 million on three contracts to begin to identify the types of military and specialized systems that would have to be added a commercial aircraft the president would use. Boeing has that contract. It would also build the replacement Air Force One.
Can Trump Cancel The Project?
Yes, but not before he is sworn in to office on Jan. 20.