The U.S. Air Force (USAF) is considering reconfiguring a pair of Boeing 747-8I airliner, originally built for the defunct Russian airline, Transaero that went bankrupt in 2015, into the Air Force One, Defense One reported citing U.S. officials.
According to the report, Air Force officials are now finalizing a contract with Boeing for the two planes and the Pentagon could publicly announce the deal as soon as this week.
“We’re working through the final stages of coordination to purchase two commercial 747-8 aircraft and expect to award a contract soon,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek was quoted as saying in a statement.
The aircraft in question are currently located at an aircraft storage yard in Victorville, California, and are marked as property of Boeing. The pair of aircraft were originally built in 2015. They were flight tested but never delivered and instead the planes sat in storage.
An already-built 747-8 would offer huge savings for the Air Force. Much of the expensive work of creating a presidential Aircraft is done on a basic or “green” aircraft that is like an ordinary commercial airliner with no interiors. Those jets are then heavily modified for military operations. Whatever the Air Force orders would likely not have required significant changes to a commercial 747-8 before being modified.
A Boeing spokesman told CNN, “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.” The Air Force would not confirm that there is a plan to purchase the planes that were once intended for the now bankrupt Russian airline.
President Donald Trump had been fiercely critical of the cost of the new Air Force One program, officially referred to as the presidential aircraft. The new planes would replace the current VC-25 aircraft which first entered service in 1990.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2016
About Air Force One:
Air Force One is the official air traffic control call sign for a U.S. Air Force (USAF) aircraft carrying the President of the United States.
In common parlance the term describes those Air Force aircraft designed, built, and used to transport the president. The presidential aircraft is a prominent symbol of the American presidency and its power.
The idea of designating specific military aircraft to transport the President arose in 1943, when officials of the United States Army Air Forces, the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force, became concerned over the reliance on commercial airlines to transport the president.
The “Air Force One” call sign was created after a 1953 incident during which a Lockheed Constellation named Columbine II, carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower, entered the same airspace as a commercial airline flight using the same call sign.
Since 1990, the presidential fleet includes two Boeing VC-25As, which are specifically configured, highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft.