In December of last year, then-president-elect Donald Trump tweeted that the projected cost of two new Air Force One aircraft was too high, and he threatened to “cancel” the order. The Defense Department then began a study to find ways to lower the cost of new presidential transport planes. After some searching, it sounds like the Air Force has found a solution in the form of two 747-8s that were abandoned by a defunct Russian airline.
A new report from Defense One indicates that the U.S. Air Force is finalizing a contract with Boeing to purchase two 747-8s that were previously owned by Russian airline Transaero. The aviation company was the second-largest airline in Russia for a time, but it went bankrupt in 2015. Two years earlier, Transaero ordered two 747s, but the struggling airline defaulted on payments to Boeing for the planes.
While Russia’s largest airline, Aeroflot, absorbed most of the Transaero fleet, it did not opt to take the 747-8 orders. So Boeing picked up the two planes and flew them back to a storage facility at the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The facility is used as an aircraft boneyard where the arid climate helps prevent aircraft corrosion.
Now the Air Force is planning to buy the Transaero’s old 747-8s for “a good deal,” according to Defense One. The official purchase could be announced by the Pentagon as soon as this week. The final price for the aircraft will not be released, but the average price for a 747-8 is just shy of $387 million. The Air Force could pick up the two Transaero 747-8s for a good bit cheaper, however, considering they were previously delivered to Russia and currently reside in the boneyard where Boeing is paying to store them.
“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 said in a statement emailed to Defense One and Bloomberg.
The two likely-future-presidential-transport-aircraft are numbered N894BA and N895BA, according to Defense One. FlightAware route data shows the two 747s were last flown in February, when they traveled from Paine Field in Snohomish County, Washington, to their current storage facility in Mojave.
After the Air Force purchases the aircraft, it will still be a number of years before the two planes are ready to serve as Air Force One. Work to outfit the 747s with secure communications,…