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What Does Trump Have Against Boeing and Air Force One?

The president-elect has Boeing beef.


Our story begins, as so many do these days, with a tweet from President-elect Donald Trump.

Our story begins, as so many do these days, with a tweet from President-elect Donald Trump.

The deal between the Pentagon and Boeing to outfit an updated presidential plane was announced last January, and was initially pegged at $26 million. The planes could use a face lift as they have been in service since 1990, during the administration of George H. W. Bush.

In July, the Defense Department then added on a $127.3 million dollar contract “to develop interior, power, and electric specifications” for the jets. In all, The Wall Street Journal reported, the Air Force has apparently earmarked $1.65 billion for two new aircraft — the four-engine Boeing 747-8s, the biggest, longest-range, and fastest version of the iconic jet. The Air Force has yet to break out the full cost or delivery schedule of the replacement jets, the WSJ said.

Boeing initially scrambled to address a hostile tweet from the man slated to be one of the company’s highest-profile passengers.

In a statement Tuesday, Boeing said it is currently under contract for $170 million “to help determine the capabilities” of the presidential plane. “We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force on subsequent phases of the program allowing us to deliver the best planes for the President at the best value for the American taxpayer,” the company said.

It is not clear where Trump got the $4 billion figure for the cost of the new planes. In a call with reporters Tuesday morning, Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller said that Trump was including the cost of the new planes, plus the cost of research. (The presidential planes differ from stock 747s in plenty of ways, especially in their interior amenities and communications and electronics gear. But the 747-800 is Boeing’s latest version of its bubble-headed jet, and is not being specially designed for Air Force One.)

Miller said that the president-elect was stressing the high price tag for taxpayers. It is even higher, he failed to note, than the $1 million a day New York City is spending on security for Trump, which will come to $1.4 billion over four years.

Though Tuesday’s tweet came seemingly out of the blue, Trump has railed against Air Force One and Boeing for a good part of the campaign.

In June, he apparently sold all of his stock, including in Boeing. In July, he objected to the use of Air Force One for campaign events — “Taxpayers are paying a fortune for the use of Air Force One on the campaign trail by President Obama and Crooked Hillary,” he tweeted at the time — and railed at how much fuel the existing plane uses. Trump also derided the president’s Air Force One, mistakenly claiming that his own Boeing 757 — a smaller plane suitable for medium-range flights — was bigger than the president’s.

Trump also has taken aim at Boeing’s efforts to sell commercial airliners to Iran, thanks to the easing of sanctions with the nuclear deal signed last year.

But it may not all be bad news for Boeing. Jim McNerney, former chairman and CEO of Boeing, is to sit on Trump’s new President’s Strategic and Policy Forum, perhaps giving him a chance to bend the next president’s ear back toward the plane maker’s good graces.

In the meantime, Trump’s favorite from his personal fleet of planes remains that 25-year old, Trump-emblazoned 757. If age limitations for his planes are the same he sets for his women, that means Trump and his favorite jet have but 10 years left until “check-out time.”

Photo credit: Carsten Koall/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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