Crews found two empty tequila bottles in an aircraft that will become the US President’s official transport, often called “Air Force One”.
Alcohol is prohibited in all Boeing facilities. That, alone, makes this a serious matter for the manufacturer. However, it happened in their San Antonio, Texas facility, where two 747-8s will eventually become VC-25Bs. This is the formal designation of what most people will refer to as the next “Air Force One”. But of course, that’s actually a callsign, for ANY Air Force aircraft, big and small, that is carrying the US President.
Boeing has launched an internal investigation, to find how two tequila bottles ended up in what will become the next iconic Air Force One. The bottles apparently are the miniature kind, that would be easier to sneak into such a facility. The site obviously employs strict security measures for this program, making the incident all the more serious. Boeing described this as “a personnel matter”.
Previous “Air Force One” Issues
Boeing has faced some issues with the future “Air Force One” program, before the involvement of tequila bottles. At first, the manufacturer put subcontractor GDC Technics in charge. GDC have experience in modifying and appointing corporate and government aircraft, for a variety of customers. However, they and Boeing sued and counter-sued each other, for contractual reasons. GDC cited the pandemic and delayed Boeing payments, as reasons for its bankruptcy.
So Boeing has now taken on the program on its own. The two VC-25Bs will replace the current VC-25As, in the “Air Force One” role. Many describe the current jets as 747-200Bs. This is rather misleading. The jets are a hybrid, with what is essentially the fuselage of the 747-200, but with newer elements from the 747-300 and 747-400 models. They have engines from the latter model, for example. But in practice, the planes include so many modifications that it’s simpler to call them VC-25As.
The new “Air Force One” VC-25Bs really did start ‘life’ as 747-8s. Boeing originally made them for Transaero, a Russian carrier. Unfortunately, they went bankrupt in 2015. But they had placed orders for four 747-8s, two of which were at an advanced stage of completion in 2015. Boeing put them in storage, before offering them to the US Air Force, as a way to reduce the cost of these future Presidential jets.
Entry-to-Service and Features
Through the change of leadership in the VC-25B program, Boeing insisted that they would deliver the jets in 2024. These estimates came in 2021, i.e. well into the pandemic. But now, many see 2025 as a more realistic entry-to-service date for the next Air Force One. The wait for their completion may seem long, for already completed aircraft, but the list of modifications in them is even longer!
The aircraft will incorporate and improve on all the modifications of the existing VC-25A Air Force One jets. These include airstairs, that resemble those for the rear door of a 737-200C (‘Combi’). And beyond their lavish interior, the aircraft incorporate extensive communications, self-defence and even medical installations and facilities.
Hopefully, Boeing will be able to complete this program without substantial delays. The manufacturer has faced embarrassment from forgotten equipment on other new aircraft. So they will not want a repeat on what should become arguably the two most secure aircraft in the world.