Boeing’s New $5 Billion Air Force One Is Two Years Late

Boeing’s New $5 Billion Air Force One Is Two Years Late
Photo: Omar Marques, Getty Images

President Biden’s pricey remote office has hit yet another roadblock. Recent factory disruptions and other issues have forced air industry behemoth Boeing to delay the release of its next Air Force One jet, known by some as The Flying White House, until at least two years after its original 2024 release date according to news reports and a Department of Defence official.

In a statement provided to Gizmodo, the Department of Defence official said the new plane, a Boeing VC-25B, would be delayed due to “a combination of factors,” which include supply issues, manpower limitations, wiring design timelines, testing, and pandemic related delays. All told, the most recent delays mean Air Force one is now around two years behind schedule.

“The original delivery date was end of 2024,” the Defence official said. “We now expect a 24 month delay.” That means Biden may not see his new ride until halfway through his second term at best.

A Boeing spokesperson acknowledged the reported delays in a statement sent to Gizmodo. “Our teams take very seriously the trust our customers place in us,” the spokesperson said. “We hold ourselves accountable to ensure we meet stringent quality control requirements on all of our program.”

That statement confirms earlier reporting on Tuesday from the Journal which first noted the apparent delay. According to that report, officials were concerned the new upgraded aircraft may have taken on damage after Boeing crew attempts to shift the weight of the massive plane from a scaffold structure to jacks. Those jacks were reportedly unable to support the weight of the parts they were supposed to hold.

While the U.S. Air force claims the jack incident didn’t lead to damage of the plane, the Journal notes the Boeing employee involved wasn’t credentialed to oversee the work.

“The situation was corrected and actions taken to prevent reoccurrence,” an Air Force spokeswoman told the Journal.

A Turbulent Development

Boeing was awarded a $US3.9 ($5) billion contract in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump’s administration to build the two new Air Force One aircraft. If that multi-billion-dollar price tag seems a bit bloated, it was actually a smidge less than a previous $US4 ($6) billion price tag rejected by Trump. The former president actually went as far as to try and cancel the Boeing order altogether. The current planes, meanwhile, are nearing three decades of use, CNBC notes

When the 2018 contract was first announced, Trump administration officials claimed the VC-25B’s (modified versions of the more well-known Boeing 747s) would grace U.S. airspaces donning a patriotic palette.

“It’s going to be red, white and blue, which I think is appropriate,” Trump said in a tweet at the time. But still, Like many of the previous administration’s promises, that initial timeline fell wildly short.

In 2021, Darlene Costello, the Air Force’s then Acting Assistant Secretary testified in front of the House subcommittee hearing and claimed Boeing had said the upgraded planes were running around 12 months behind schedule. Then, last month, sources familiar with the planes told Breaking Defence the delay was actually closer to 17 months. At the time Boeing cited pandemic delays and the bankruptcy of its subcontractor GDC Technics (which was reportedly under contract to design the plane’s interiors) for the delays.