US considering buying new Air Force One planes built for bankrupt Russian airline
(CNN) The United States Air Force now abandoned the idea of building a new aircraft to become Air Force One from scratch because of concerns about costs.
Instead, they plan to reconfigure a pair of Boeing 747-8 jumbo jets originally built for a Russian airline that broke in 2015, according to a US official and another source close to the talks.
The Russian airline never received the aircraft, according to two people familiar with the jets. They were tested in flight, but never delivered and the plane were placed in a row.
The source says here that “the United States Air Force believes that it may be cheaper to convert these existing aircraft than to build a new one.”
A source and the United States official emphasized that the agreement is not final.
But a handshake agreement on the plane could arrive in a matter of days, according to a person familiar with the agreement, and a formal contract is expected to follow in the coming weeks.
The pair of aircraft was originally built in 2015. The Russian company broke down and ceased operations in October 2015.
Transaero ordered three 747-8 Intercontinental aircraft. Boeing recently withdrew three of its 747-8 bookkeeping accounts which were originally tied to the now-bankrupt Russian airline.
Boeing had also tried to pack the two jets as part of an agreement with Iran Air, said the person who reported the case, but the company has decided against the Airbus A380 and 747-8, the company’s largest aircraft.
An already built 747-8 would provide great savings for the Air Force. Much of the costly job of creating a presidential plane is on a basic or “green” plane, which is like an ordinary commercial plane without interiors.
These jets are so heavily modified for military operations. Any Air Force order that probably would not need major changes in the 747-8 trade sector before it was changed.
The aircraft in question is currently located at an aircraft storage site in Victorville, California, and is marked as owned by Boeing, a person familiar with the plane to CNN.
A Boeing spokesman told CNN: “We are still working on an agreement to provide two 747-8 for the Air Force – this agreement is to provide great value to the air force and to the best price the taxpayer.”
The Air Force will not confirm that there is a plan to buy aircraft that once were intended for the now-bankrupt Russian airline.
“We are working through the final stages of coordination to buy two 747-8 commercial jets and hope to award a contract soon,” said CNN Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.
President Donald Trump was heavily criticized for the cost of the new Air Force One program, officially called the presidential plane. The new aircraft would replace the current VC-25 aircraft that entered service in 1990.
“Boeing built a new Air Force One 747 for future presidents, but costs are out of control, over $ 4 billion. Cancel the order!” Tuiteó Trump in December, shortly before taking up his duties.