After his surprise win in the 2016 US Presidential election, Trump had said that he thought the cost of a new Air Force One fleet was too much for the taxpayer to bear and had pledged to negotiate a better, low-cost deal
Displaying his self-acclaimed fiscal prudence, it seems President Donald Trump is backing the US Air Force for finalising a deal with bankrupt Russian airline Transaero and aviation major Boeing to buy 747-8 jetliners for expansion of the Air Force One fleet in a bid to save money paid by American taxpayers from being spent on the otherwise massive expense of buying new aircraft.
According to a report in The Independent, the two jets are currently parked in the dry Mojave desert since Transaero, which had originally placed a purchase order with Boeing for these aircraft, went bankrupt before making good on the deal.
“The two jets that may become the next iconic Air Force One fleet have been sitting in the (Mojave) desert since earlier this year, after a deal between the jet’s manufacturer Boeing and a Russian airline fell through. The dry air in Mojave makes the area ideal for storing planes, as the air won’t be corrosive. The area, in general, is a storage place for older planes and planes that may one day be flown again,” the report in The Independent said.
The deal is reportedly in its final stages now and the American media quoted Ann Stefanek, the spokesperson of US Air Force, as saying: “We’re working through the final stages of coordination to purchase two commercial 747-8 aircraft and expect to award a contract soon.”
There are reports suggesting that the deal may actually be finalised within days and a formal announcement on the same may come within this week itself.
Although Boeing did not confirm the specifics of the sale, it has reportedly said that the negotiations were centred on delivering a “great value” for the Air Force and American people, indicating that the negotiations were at an advanced, perhaps ultimate, stage.
The Independent report however also added that “the planes are going to cost quite a bit more than your average Boeing 747-8 — which has a sticker price of $386.8 million — since the US military will need to outfit it with specific protections and capabilities for the President’s use and protection.”
Pentagon budget requests have laid out $3.2 billion to pay for those modifications. Those changes include adding private conference rooms in the cabin, private living quarters for the President, an operating room for emergency procedures in-flight, flares in the wings for deterring missiles, a probe for mid-air refuelling, and reinforcement so that the fuselage can withstand a ground-level nuclear blast.