The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler broke down the numerous errors in a tweet sent out by President-elect Trump calling for the cancellation of the building of an Air Force One plane claiming that “costs are out of control.”
In a December 6 tweet, Trump said the cost of a new Boeing 747 Air Force One plane would be “out of control, more than $4 billion,” and called for the government to cancel the order.
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
Later in the lobby of his New York Trump Tower, the president-elect called the alleged price of the plane “ridiculous … We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.” But Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler found that Trump’s tweet is incorrect. Boeing will design a replacement “for the aging pair of Air Force Ones” but is technically not building the jet, and the cost of the project has not been set. The Department of Defense estimates “a cost of $2.9 billion over the next five years,” with a possible additional $1 billion “to complete and procure the aircraft.” Kessler explained Trump cannot “cancel the order” because nothing has been ordered yet. From the December 6 Washington Post article:
Trump is not a stickler for accuracy, but there are number of inaccuracies in his tweet. Let’s break them down one by one.
“Boeing is building . . . ”
Earlier in 2016, Boeing received a $170 million contract to design a replacement for the aging pair of Air Force Ones used by the president. Boeing is not actually building the jet, though logically it is the only U.S. manufacturer with the capability to build such an aircraft.
“ … a brand new 747 Air Force One … ”
At a minimum, there would be two Air Force Ones. You need a spare in case there is a problem with one. The jets generally have a life cycle of 30 years.
A plane only receives the call sign “Air Force One” when the president is on board. This is actually a highly modified version of the Boeing 747-8 jet.
“Costs are out of control, more than $4 billion”
Cost have actually not been set. The Defense Department’s five-year plan indicates a cost of $2.9 billion over the next five years for design and development. It’s logical to assume at least another $1 billion in additional expenses to complete and procure the aircraft.
So an estimate of $4 billion — for design, testing and manufacture of at least two jets — is not completely out of line. But the budget is subject to approval by Congress and the actual design of the aircraft. Boeing literally needs to re-engineer the plane from the ground up, so there are many one-time expenses.
“Cancel the order!”
Nothing has been ordered yet. But the program could be eliminated. This may not be a problem for Trump, but certainly would affect his successors, especially if no order is placed before Boeing stops making 747s. The current aircraft were delivered in 1990, and as we noted, the life cycle is about 30 years. The Pentagon says the current fleet “faces capability gaps, rising maintenance costs, and parts obsolescence as it reaches the end of its planned 30-year life-cycle.”
Boeing seemed to “shrug off” the tweet, which caused the company’s stocks to dip about one percent in the morning, but bounced “back in the black” later that same day.