Trump Attacks Air Force One, Boeing Stocks Plummet

I’ve been looking at a variety of articles on Trump’s latest Tweetstrom about cancelling Boeing’s contract to build two new planes for the Air Force One program, and I can’t find any corroboration for his claim that the contract has ballooned to the four billion dollar range.

His tweet makes it sound like Boeing is building a single plane, but they’re actually looking to replace both of the Air Force One planes. They won the contract back in January, which surprised no one because the only other bidder was Airbus. Does Donald Trump want to make America great again by having the French build our president’s planes?

One requirement is that the planes have four engines for added safety, but even Boeing is phasing out four-engine planes due to lack of sales. They’re basically only used for cargo flights these days because the two-engine models are more fuel-efficient.

Once Boeing won the bid, they received an initial contract for $25.8 million to investigate ways to increase safety and reduce costs. Then in July, Boeing was awarded a second contract for $127.3 million to “reduce the risk of delays and cost overruns before the USAF commits to full-scale development and procurement.” Prior to that, the Air Force announced an overall budget of $1.65 billion for the two planes. Bloomberg took an initial look at Trump’s claim and came up empty: “Trump didn’t specify where the $4 billion figure came from. The Air Force has budgeted about $1.6 billion through 2019.”

Maybe Trump has information that is unavailable to our best news sources, but the planes are supposed to cost about $800 million each, not $2 billion each, as Trump’s tweet suggests. It’s hard to see how there could have been cost overruns this significant in so short a time, especially since the deliverable date isn’t until 2024 and the contracts that have been awarded so far add up to barely more than $150 million.

Of course, the contract could well be cancelled now that the president-elect has recommended it. Boeing’s stock began to plummet immediately. But, again, the only alternative to Boeing is Airbus, and Airbus is already looking to poach Boeing business from China if Trump follows through with belligerant anti-Chinese polices (as he has already begun to do).

They could scrap the plan to replace the planes altogether. But there are reasons that they are being replaced.

“Parts obsolescence, diminishing manufacturing sources and increased downtimes for maintenance are existing challenges that will increase until a new aircraft is fielded,” Col. Amy McCain, manager of the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program, in a statement at the time.

The current planes will be almost 35 years old by 2024. Trump’s fleet of planes are also reaching old age:

The New York Times reported last April that four of Trump’s five aircraft are more than 20 years old, which is rare for someone of the president-elect’s wealth. According to the Times, Trump’s largest, and favorite, aircraft from the fleet is his 1991 Boeing 757, which has brushed 24-karat gold fixtures and leather toilet seats.

I suspect that Stephen Bannon is behind Trump’s attack on Boeing, but, per usual, it doesn’t seem to be reality-based.

It looks like pablum for the hoi polloi. In Trumpworld, corporate stocks are playthings that are easily sacrificed for the opportunity to play at faux-populism.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.