Boeing’s newest Air Force One jets are running so far behind in production that the older models may need to remain in use until as late as 2028, which could cost taxpayers upwards of $340 million.
The cost comes from keeping the older models in use far longer than previously anticipated. Back in 2018, the Trump administration reached a new $3.9 billion deal to replace the out-of-date Boeing 747-200Bs for presidential use. Under the deal, the first two jets were initially set to be ready to fly by 2024.
However, in the summer of 2021, it was revealed by Darlene Costello, principal deputy assistant secretary for Air Force acquisition, technology, and logistics, that the aerospace company had requested to delay delivery by 12 months.
About a year later, the Air Force released a statement announcing that a new delay had hit the Boeing delivery. The first aircraft would not be delivered until September 2027, followed by the second in February 2028.
As per the statement, reasons for the delay include “impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, interiors supplier transition, manpower limitations, wiring design timelines, and projected test execution rates.”
The two aircraft currently comprising the presidential air transport fleet date all the way back to 1990 and 1991, according to the Air Force.
Back in April, the Air Force reported that the average cost of operating these old planes was $177,843 per hour in the 2021 fiscal year. This includes estimates for the cost of fuel, consumables, and maintenance.
The new aircraft, known as 747-8i, is expected to be larger and more fuel efficient than the previous jets, thus cheaper to operate.
While the outdated 747-200Bs cost $70 million more to operate on a yearly basis than the new planes would, any repairs they might need in the interim could cost an additional $100 million per plane.
Meanwhile, Boeing is liable for any overruns in building the new jets, as per the agreement negotiated under the Trump administration.
During the company’s recent quarterly earnings call on Wednesday, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun announced that they had lost $660 million in the first quarter on the jets due to schedule delays and higher supplier costs.
Calhoun conceded that the Air Force One deal was “a very unique negotiation, a very unique set of risks that Boeing probably shouldn’t have taken, but we are where we are, and we’re going to deliver great airplanes, and we’re going to recognize the costs associated with it.”