Trump wants con­tract to build a new Air Force One can­celed

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By W.J. HEN­NI­GAN

Tri­bune Wash­ing­ton Bureau

— Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump took aim at Air Force One on Tues­day, crit­i­ciz­ing the cost of the iconic 747 jumbo jet that has served as the pres­i­dent’s fly­ing White House and pro­jected Amer­ica’s might wher­ever it lands.

The air­craft used by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, built by Chicago-based Boe­ing Co., have been in ser­vice since the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion and are due to reach the end of a 30-year de­sign life in 2017.

Boe­ing, which has built pres­i­den­tial jets since the early 1960s, has been do­ing early devel­op­ment work on the re­place­ment likely to be out­fit­ted with the lat­est in gad­getry, in­clud­ing top-se­cret com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment, coun­ter­mea­sures to spoil mis­sile at­tacks, and aerial re­fu­el­ing ca­pa­bil­ity so it can fly for days with­out land­ing.

Trump would not get a chance to fly in a new Air Force One un­less he is re­elected; the re­place­ment isn’t slated to be­gin fly­ing un­til 2021 at the ear­li­est. So far, Boe­ing has been given three con­tracts amount­ing to $170 mil­lion to de­velop the air­craft, which is based on the new and larger ver­sion of the 747 dubbed the 747-8 In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal.

“Boe­ing is build­ing a brand new 747 Air Force One for fu­ture pres­i­dents, but costs are out of con­trol, more than $4 bil­lion. Can­cel


or­der!” Trump tweeted.

As pres­i­dent-elect, Trump has no power to can­cel pro­cure­ments, but the Air Force has yet to is­sue a con­tract for the next-gen­er­a­tion Air Force One, which will in­clude two planes.

Fed­eral bud­get doc­u­ments pub­lished in Fe­bru­ary es­ti­mated re­search, test and devel­op­ment costs on the pro­gram to be around $2.8 bil­lion. The fig­ure doesn’t in­clude the costs of the two planes, how­ever. When that is fac­tored in, the price tag may be around $4 bil­lion, U.S. of­fi­cials said.

“We are cur­rently un­der con­tract for $170 mil­lion to help de­ter­mine the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of this com­plex mil­i­tary air­craft that serves the unique re­quire­ments of the pres­i­dent of the United States,” Boe­ing said Tues­day in a state­ment. “We look for­ward to work­ing with the U.S. Air Force on sub­se­quent phases of the pro­gram al­low­ing us to de­liver the best plane for the pres­i­dent at the best value for the Amer­i­can tax­payer.”

It is rare for a pres­i­den­t­elect to pub­licly call out a com­pany by name be­cause of the chilling ef­fect it might have, and it wasn’t clear what prompted Trump’s com­plaint. Boe­ing’s shares were down 0.8 per­cent in early trad­ing af­ter Trump’s tweet be­fore the stock mar­ket opened.

Trump sold all his Boe­ing stock in June, tran­si­tion spokesman Jason Miller in­sisted, though no doc­u­men­ta­tion was made pub­lic.

“This re­ally speaks to pres­i­dent-elect’s fo­cus on keep­ing spend­ing down across the board,” Miller told re­porters. “We are go­ing to look for ar­eas where we can keep costs down and look for ar­eas where we are go­ing to try to save money.”

With world­wide de­mand steadily shrink­ing, Boe­ing has re­peat­edly slowed the 747 pro­duc­tion rate to one per month. The com­pany said this year that if new or­ders didn’t roll in, it was “rea­son­ably pos­si­ble that we could de­cide to end pro­duc­tion of the 747.”

In its hey­day, Boe­ing was pro­duc­ing 60 jumbo jets a year, with many of the com­po­nents com­ing from South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. Boe­ing has sev­eral hun­dred sup­pli­ers in the U.S. sup­port­ing the 747 pro­gram, many of them in Cal­i­for­nia.

One of the largest is Tri­umph Aerostruc­tures, which as­sem­bles the 747’s cen­ter fuse­lage pan­els in Hawthorne.

The only other large com­mer­cial air­craft man­u­fac­turer is Air­bus Group SE, which is based in Lei­den, Nether­lands.

Trump told re­porters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York Tues­day morn­ing that he thought the Air Force One pro­gram was “ridicu­lous.”

“I think Boe­ing is do­ing a lit­tle bit of a num­ber,” he said. “We want Boe­ing to make a lot of money but not that much money.”

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