Boeing Made Billion Dollar Mistake In Transforming Air Force One

By Robert Cunningham, updated on December 26, 2023

Boeing's financial turbulence continues as it faces a colossal loss on Air Force One.

Boeing, the aerospace giant, has encountered severe financial and technical setbacks with the Air Force One project, leading to unprecedented losses.

In a startling disclosure, Boeing reported a staggering $482 million loss on the retrofit of two 747 jets designated to serve as the next Air Force One. This loss is a substantial hit to a company still grappling with the fallout from the 737 Max crisis, which has already strained its financial resources and tarnished its public image. The total losses now tower over $1 billion for each jet, a figure that far exceeds initial projections and highlights the challenges the company faces.

Aerospace Industry Faces Headwinds

The ambitious contract, signed in 2018, was originally set to cost $3.9 billion and slated for completion by 2024. Yet, Boeing has been beset with a range of complications, from escalating supplier costs to technical difficulties. Design changes and quality control issues have also contributed to the ballooning expenses and operational hurdles that Boeing is now striving to overcome.

Boeing’s CEO, Dave Calhoun, voiced his regret over the contract, candidly admitting that it has led to a "bad outcome" for the company. This sentiment underscores the difficulties inherent in such a high-profile and technologically demanding project. The Air Force One program is prestigious and highly sensitive, requiring state-of-the-art advancements, including nuclear hardening and missile defense systems, to safeguard the nation's leaders.

Political Promises Versus Fiscal Reality

Former President Donald Trump once boasted of savings of $1.5 billion for taxpayers with this deal. Critics, however, have argued that Trump's involvement was politically driven rather than cost-effective, with some suggesting that the original estimate was closer to $3.2 billion. Despite these claims, the program's costs are now anticipated to soar to $5.3 billion, accompanied by a delay in delivery.

The new 747-8 model planes are designed to be much more than luxurious transportation; they are equipped with advanced communications systems, capable of in-flight refueling, and designed to withstand the effects of a nuclear explosion. These technical enhancements are vital for the security of American leadership but have proven to be a complex and costly endeavor for Boeing.

Defense analyst Loren Thompson described the situation succinctly: “The Air Force One program is a mess... Boeing underestimated how much it would cost to build these planes, and now it’s paying the price.” This sentiment echoes the wider industry consensus that the project was vastly more complicated and expensive than originally anticipated.

Boeing's Commitment Amidst Challenges

Boeing's defense unit reported a loss of $924 million in the third quarter of 2023, further underscoring the financial strain the company is under. The ongoing pandemic and continual supply chain disruptions have only compounded the potential for further delays and additional costs, posing a significant challenge to completing the Air Force One program.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek emphasized the continued collaboration with Boeing to reduce costs, signaling a commitment to seeing the project through to fruition. “The Air Force continues to partner with Boeing to drive cost out of the program... We look forward to providing this critical capability to our nation’s senior leaders,” said Stefanek, highlighting the strategic importance of the Air Force One fleet.

Boeing spokesman Peter Pedraza reassured the public of the company's dedication to delivering a presidential aircraft that meets the highest standards of safety and effectiveness. “Boeing is committed to delivering safe, reliable, and effective presidential aircraft... We continue to make steady progress toward that goal,” Pedraza stated, reaffirming Boeing’s resolve to overcome the current difficulties.

Conclusion

Boeing's venture into revamping Air Force One has proven to be a financially and technically daunting task.

  • Boeing reported a $482 million loss on the Air Force One contract.
  • Total losses on each retrofitted jet now exceed $1 billion.
  • The original contract value was $3.9 billion, with an expected completion by 2024.
  • Rising supplier costs, technical glitches, and design changes have plagued the project.
  • Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun expressed regret over the contract.
  • The Air Force One program is prestigious and requires advanced features.
  • Critics question the reported savings and political involvement in the contract.
  • The program's cost is expected to be $5.3 billion, with delivery delays.
  • Boeing's defense unit recorded a significant loss in the third quarter of 2023.

About Robert Cunningham

With years of experience at the forefront of political commentary, Robert Cunningham brings a blend of sharp wit and deep insight to his analysis of American principles at the Capitalism Institute.

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