Two Boeing 747-8 jets that were given up before delivery by Russia’s bankrupt Transaero Airlines could well end up as the next presidential Air Force One aircraft.
The arrangement, first reported by Defense One, is one of the options being discussed as a response to President Donald Trump’s demand to reduce the multibillion-dollar cost of replacing today’s aging Air Force One planes. The Air Force is negotiating with Boeing over the terms and requirements for the switchover from the two nearly 30-year-old 747-200s that are currently being used.
“We’re still working closely with the Air Force toward a deal, with our focus being to provide the best value and price to the Air Force,” Boeing spokeswoman Caroline Hutcheson told GeekWire in an email.
Transaero ordered the 747-8s in 2013. Two years later, it declared bankruptcy. Russia’s flagship Aeroflot airlines picked up most of Transaero’s planes but declined to take delivery of the 747-8s. Last year, the planes were parked for long-term storage in Victorville, Calif., where the dry climate of California’s Mojave Desert preserves mothballed jets from corrosion.
Various reports have suggested that the planes, bearing the tail numbers N894BA and N895BA, might be sold to Iran Air or used for spare parts.
The Air Force One deal drew Trump’s ire shortly after last November’s election, when he complained about a purported price tag of $4 billion. In truth, the precise amount has long been the subject of negotiation, although it’s certain to run into billions of dollars.
After meeting with Trump, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said he provided the president with a “personal commitment” to keep the cost below $4 billion.
The planes themselves account for just a fraction of the total cost: Boeing’s 747-8 jets carry a list price of $379 million each, but the commercial planes are typically sold for around half the list price.
Once the planes destined to become Air Force One jets are purchased, they’ll have to go through substantial modification for presidential use. The upgrades are likely to include equipment for in-flight refueling, radiation hardening, a super-secure communication system and other capabilities that most 747s don’t need to have.
The new planes are expected to be ready between 2020 and 2024, depending on how the outfitting goes.