The US Air Force is close to a deal to buy two 747-8 Intercontinental airliners from Boeing to serve as the basis for its next generation presidential transports.
(When the President is on board, they take on the call sign Air Force One.)
The two planes were originally built for Transaero, a Russian airline that went out of business in 2015, a person familiar with the matter told Business Insider.
The person also told us that the move should reduce the cost of the program that will see the commercial jet converted for Presidential use rather than have two planes purpose built from scratch.
Boeing declined to disclose the price of the deal. However, a brand new Boeing 747-8I retails for $386.8 million. With that said, the Air Force is expected to receive significant discounts on the listed price.
“We’re still working toward a deal to provide two 747-8s to the Air Force – this deal is focused on providing a great value for the Air Force and the best price for the taxpayer,” Boeing said in a statement to Business Insider.
An Air Force spokesperson also confirmed the news to Defense One, the trade publication that first reported the deal.
According to Defense One, sources say the Pentagon could announce the deal as soon as this week.
The acquisition of replacement aircraft for the Air Force’s pair of 27-year old Boeing 747-200-based VC-25As have been a point of contention even before President Trump took office.
“Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion,” Then-President-elect Trump tweeted in December. “Cancel order!”
According to a report by the Government Accountability Office published last March, the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program has an estimated total cost of $3.21 billion spread out over the next decade or so.
At the time of its demise in late 2015, Transaero was Russia’s second largest airline. While the country’s national airline, Aeroflot, absorbed many of Transaero’s employees and aircraft, it declined to take on its fleet of costly jumbo jets. This included the four 747-8Is the defunct carrier had on order with Boeing. Unfortunately for the airplane maker, two of the four Transaero planes had already been built.
With orders for 747s hard to come by these days, the brand new planes were tested and then sent for storage in California. Boeing made it very clear that the planes have never been delivered and has always been under its ownership.