Boeing Commercial Airplanes is reportedly nearing a final contract with the U.S. Dept. of Defense for two 747 wide-body jets to replace the current Air Force One fleet of presidential aircraft. The final deal, described as a multibillion-dollar contract, may be announced soon, according to various sources.
Last summer the U.S. Air Force placed a $600-million contract with Boeing Co. to acquire two 747-8 jumbo jets that had been ordered and then cancelled before delivery by a foreign carrier. The two aircraft were placed into storage.
Boeing then began modifying and testing the FAA-certified aircraft to meet presidential operational requirements. According to that deal, the two jets would be ready to replace the current Air Force One fleet in 2024.
The Boeing 747 is a four-engine, wide-body jet developed as a long-distance passenger aircraft, but now more commonly used as a cargo carrier as airlines seek more fuel-efficient aircraft. The USAF prefers the 747 as Air Force One flights for a range of design and security factors.
There is concern for the future of the 747 program, because commercial carriers prefer newer, more fuel-efficient dual-engine wide-body jets. The OEM has lately drawn fewer and fewer orders for new 747s, generally for cargo service.
In the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump had criticized the costs of replacing the Air Force One fleet. After his election, Boeing executives worked to persuade President Trump to maintain the program.