It seems that another mystery problem is causing headaches for Boeing, involving the US government’s order for its next Air Force One fleet.
Currently, the President of the United States travels around in one of two bespoke 747 derivatives. These planes, that fall somewhere between the 747-200 and 747-300 in their specification, are properly named VC-25As. “Air Force One” is a callsign, for use only when the president is on board. But for better or worse, to many, the name is inseparable from the aircraft themselves.
However, these VC-25As aren’t getting any younger. Over the years they have gotten many modifications. You can tell how old or new a photo of a VC-25 is, by the number of “bumps” and antennas it has. In any case, it wasn’t obvious that the next Air Force One would be another 747. But this was the decision that the US government and the Air Force took, selecting the 747-8.
Boeing got its contract for the two aircraft in 2018. Originally, the plan was for the first aircraft to enter service in 2024. But that timeline is looking increasingly unlikely. We previously saw that Boeing faced a number of problems with GDC Technics, an interior contractor. Boeing and GDC sued each other, with the manufacturer opting to do the work itself.
Next Air Force One – Tequila And… Jacks
Later, another story broke that a number of empty tequila bottles were found in one of the aircraft. This happened in Boeing’s San Antonio, Texas facility. Boeing prohibits the presence of alcohol in all its facilities. But the most recent issue with one of the next “Air Force One” VC-25Bs, involves jacking them up.
Reports are emerging that one of the two aircraft suffered an incident, that might have caused unspecified damage. Crews attempted to put the plane up on jacks. But the weight was too much for an unspecified number of these jacks. The details of the incident aren’t clear, but it seems that the aircraft moved, possibly suffering stress loads.
As we’ve seen, Boeing built both of the aircraft that will form the next Air Force One fleet as airliners. Their would-be operator was Transaero, a Russian private carrier, which has since gone bankrupt. If the original fate of the presidential jets seems a bit ironic, given recent (and current) events, it’s not unique. “Janet”, the airline carrying military and civilian US personnel to ‘Area 51’ and other such installations, has a fleet of Boeing 737-600s. All of them came from Air China.
The decision to use already-built passenger jets for the next Air Force One was in order to reduce costs. Boeing got a $3.9 billion contract for the project. However, the manufacturer is renegotiating the VC-25B contract, primarily with regard to its delivery schedule. The delays are coming at a time when Boeing is already tackling delays in the certification of the 777X, the 737-10 and the production of the 787.