In December last year, the then president-elect Donald Trump tweeted that the costs of the new Air Force One planes Boeing were building were “out of control” and called for the order to be canceled.
Trump was wrong about Boeing building “a brand new 747 Air Force One” and costs being “more than $4 billion,” as the U.S. Air Force had only awarded a $170 million contract to Boeing to design Air Force One planes.
At that time, the Air Force was planning to buy two new jetliners to replace the Boeing 747-200s that have served presidents since George H.W. Bush, but was yet to place orders.
Now the Air Force has found a way to make Trump feel he has got a “good deal” by planning to buy a pair of Boeing 747s abandoned by a bankrupt Russian airline and now housed at the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California.
Though the Air Force is not expected to release the contract value, officials said they are getting a “good deal” on the planes, which are, on average, listed at $386.8 million each, according to Defense One, a defense and national security website.
“ 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.
However, turning a standard 747 into an Air Force One takes quite a bit of customization.
The $170 million contract given to Boeing to design the next Air Force One planes includes equipping it to stay aloft and connected during a nuclear war.
Apart from the customized conference rooms, offices and seating for White House staff, guests and journalists, the presidential aircraft needs to have these additional features:
- Midair refueling capability
- Missile defense systems
- Electronic countermeasure defense systems
- An operating room
- Ability to withstand the electromagnetic pulse emitted from a nuclear detonation
- A communications set-up to manage a wartime crisis from anywhere in the world.
So how much money does it take to keep this flying White House operational?
According to records accessed by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, the answer is $142,380 per flying hour. According to analysts, it costs just $20,000 to $25,000 per flying hour for an airline to operate a commercial 747.