Next Air Force One planes could be jumbo jets built for bankrupt Russian airline – reports

Next Air Force One planes could be jumbo jets built for bankrupt Russian airline – reports
The US Air Force is considering two new Boeing 747-8s as a replacement for the ageing VC-25 planes that fly the president and other dignitaries. The jumbo jets in question were initially built for Transaero, a now-bankrupt Russian airline, AP and Reuters report.

The aircraft in question are two Boeing 747-8 widebody airplanes that were previously ordered by the Russian airline Transaero but never delivered to the carrier as it went bankrupt in 2015.

The US Air Force and Boeing were discussing a deal involving Boeing 747s initially listed for Transaero, the news agencies reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. The sources chose not to be identified as the deal has not yet been finalized or publicly announced.

"The Air Force is working through the final stages of coordination to purchase two commercial 747-8 aircraft, and we expect to award a contract soon," Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said, as cited by the news agencies.

Boeing also said in a statement that the corporation was determined to offer “the best deal for the Air Force and the best price for the taxpayer.”

The current presidential aircraft include two VC-25s planes built by Boeing in the 1980s based upon the design of the best-selling 747-200 model. Bearing the famous designation ‘Air Force One’, the planes have become well known due to their distinctive white-and-blue livery.

Usually employed to transport the US president and other top brass, the VC-25s are believed to have sophisticated defensive equipment, emergency medical compartment and comfortable suites allowing the head of state to rest on board.

The VC-25 is capable of covering around 12,600km (7,800 miles) and can be refueled mid-flight from a tanker aircraft. Each aircraft is said to accommodate more than 70 passengers, including the presidential couple, top White House officials, security detail and press pool.

However, as the current presidential planes are aging and becoming less cost-efficient to operate, the Pentagon is seeking suitable replacements.

Boeing became the only aircraft manufacturer interested in supplying the VIP aircraft after its global competitor Airbus said in 2009 it would not participate in the US Air Force tender as assembling only a couple of airplanes in the US would not prove financially beneficial.

Earlier, President Donald Trump criticized the cost of building the new Air Force One fleet by Boeing. Last December, the then president-elect tweeted that a $4 billion contract for Air Force One was too expensive and should be canceled.

In January, Boeing maintained it had made “substantial cost reductions” by means of “simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices.” 

The US is not the only country to use the 747 to transport heads of state and other dignitaries. The Chinese leader flies a commercial Air China Boeing 747 converted for international travel and official use.

The governments of Japan, South Korea and India also use jumbo jets for VIP travel, as do the monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. However, sales of Boeing’s 747 have plummeted after carriers around the world shifted to more-efficient twin-engine models such as the 777, the 787 or Airbus A350 airplanes.