Next Air Force One (VC-25B) – Still having problems?

It seems another mysterious issue is causing Boeing headaches, involving the US government’s order for its next Air Force One fleet.

The two existing VC-25A “Air Force One” aircraft. Photo: CPL Roman Gray, USMC

Currently, the President of the United States rides in one of two custom-built 747 derivatives. These aircraft, which fall somewhere between the 747-200 and 747-300 in their specification, are correctly named VC-25A. “Air Force One” is a call sign, to be used only when the President is on board. But for better or worse, for many the name is inseparable from the plane itself.

However, these VC-25As are not getting any younger. Over the years, they have undergone many modifications. You can tell how old or new a photo of a VC-25 is by how many “bumps” and antennae it has. In any case, it wasn’t obvious that the next Air Force One would be another 747. But that’s the decision the US government and the Air Force made, selecting the 747-8.

Next Air Force One (VC-25B) – Still having problems?

No more “bumps” on the roof, so a more recent photo!

Boeing won its contract for both planes in 2018. Originally, the plan called for the first plane to enter service in 2024. But that timeline is looking increasingly unlikely. We saw earlier that Boeing was having a number of issues with GDC Technics, an interior contractor. Boeing and GDC sued, with the automaker choosing to do the work itself.

Next Air Force One – Tequila And… Jacks

Later, another story broke that a number of empty tequila bottles were found on one of the planes. It happened at Boeing’s facility in San Antonio, Texas. Boeing prohibits the presence of alcohol in all of its facilities. But the most recent problem with one of the upcoming “Air Force One” VC-25Bs is lifting them.

A possible design for the VC-25B

Reports are emerging that one of the two aircraft suffered an incident, which may have caused unspecified damage. The crews attempted to jack the plane up. But the weight was too great for an indeterminate number of these jacks. Details of the incident are unclear, but it appears the plane moved, possibly suffering from stress loads.

As we have seen, Boeing built both the planes that will form the next Air Force One fleet as airliners. Their potential operator was Transaero, a private Russian carrier, which has since gone bankrupt. If the initial fate of presidential jets seems a bit ironic, given recent (and current) events, it’s not unique. “Janet,” the airline that flies US military and civilian personnel to “Area 51” and other similar facilities, has a fleet of Boeing 737-600s. All were from Air China.

A ‘JANET’ 737-600, another government aircraft with an unlikely past. Photo: InSapphoWeTrust, CC BY-SA 2.0

The decision to use already built passenger jets for the next Air Force One was made to save costs. Boeing was awarded a $3.9 billion contract for the project. However, the manufacturer is renegotiating the VC-25B contract, mainly regarding its delivery schedule. The delays come at a time when Boeing is already addressing delays in 777X, 737-10 and 787 production certification.

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