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Air Force One is an 'unrivalled flying fortress'

It's time for the American president to get a new plane. On the outside, the new Air Force One (which are actually two identical jets) will maintain its iconic blue and white livery - however, the inside will be barely recognisable. Considering the current plane was built at a time when having a fax machine on board was groundbreaking, the technology on board will get a considerable upgrade. It was never going to come cheap. President-elect Donald Trump cast a spotlight on the project this… ( More...

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yatesd 15
Folks need to understand that the VC-25s are a weapons system in every sense of the word. From sensitive comma to flying broadcast studio to hospital, what this plane does is amazing.
zennermd 4
Don't forget about advanced countermeasures and defense systems.
James Simms 5
there are only 17-19 747-200's still flying. Find it somewhat ironic Trump wants to save American jobs...those that could be building the new AF1' long as it doesn't cost too much.

Bottom line, he'll never fly in the new one & a new set are needed.
chuck martin 1
He wont even be in office by the time these jets are delivered to the fleet.
Paul Hurford 3
Bottom Line anyone? Trump is a businessman and based on his previous "Tweets;" "Twitter"is not Trump's primary negotiation method. Cancelling these Boeing orders via "Twitter" is meaningless and doesn't change the terms of the signed agreements between the USAF and Boeing. Simply, Trump is out to get the price down, he has no idea how much is involved in the new construction, and really doesn't care. He just wants to Trumpet <sigh> his shrewd business dealings when Boeing lowers the price. The new planes will be built. Trump will take all the credit, the crowds will cheer, Trump's ego will be satisfied. YEA!
Laura Burns 3
It is my understanding that replacement parts are getting more difficult to obtain, and the fact that these are nearly 30 year old aircraft are two of the primary reasons they need to be replaced, and the 4B price tag is over 12 years.
chuck martin 1
The sustainment costs for the new jets are in that 4 Bil #. Parts/Spares, Training, Technical Publications, engineering & technical support, flight testing, etc. These cost $$.

[This poster has been suspended.]

chuck martin 3
I think the parts that she may be referring to would be in the rotable and LRU category. I dealt with the VC-25 team on occasion when I was involved with the 747-400, ABL aircraft at Edwards AFB. After 5-6 years with that airframe, I was running into issues with sparing and repairs. I couldn't get new parts all the time, but instead had to go out into the surplus parts market to find things. Even though we (Boeing) were still in the 747-400 production run. And because there was a diminishing number of available parts in the market, it drove the price and the lead times up. One can never accurately plan the spares and repairs needs for your aircraft. And of course there is a very tight spares budget you get to work with.

Keep in mind too that 145 repair stations for bench level repairs of LRU's and components comes with the risk that they tend to move up with the technology. SO they may have been repairs a certain model of LRU 10 years ago, they may not do that now since there may be no more available circuit cards, chips, software, etc. Sometimes (in more current times mostly now) the biggest issue is the electronic components that age out or burn out due to heat induced failures. Circuit cards are produced in large batch production runs that support current production runs and includes predicted life cycle spares. Once they are made and sent out, the circuit card/chip mfgrs retools for the next-gen card/chip. Once those spares are gone, they are GONE! At some point in time the operator has to either figure out how to fix that LRU inhouse or at a 3rd party, or update the airframe with newer technology. These processes are big $$ no matter the path you chose.

Modern high tech aircraft operating costs are being impacted more and more by the introduction of electronics. Do you think that there are still chip manufactures making and selling 286 speed micro-processors??? If you have an aircraft that was built 20 years ago and still think you can get a 286 chip for your FMS computer or radar RT, I think you should just think for a moment on how much the home computing industry has grown and revolutionized in the past 20 years. And you cant get one off of E-Bay and plug it into your broken LRU. No way! electronic obsolesces is getting to be the # 1 Mx cost driver for operators of our aircraft these days. It affects general, corporate, commercial and military aviation equally. AF 1 fleet is no doubt experiencing this.

As far as other components, like actuators, pumps, valves, gearboxes, tires, brakes, flight control surfaces etc. There are still plenty of component repair shops that can perform the rebuild-repair and overhaul of these older simpler components and accessories. O-rings aren't changing, rod-ends are common, tires get re-skinned, brakes are O/H and control surfaces are repaired. The landing gears are on a 10 year O/H plan and that isn't cheap to get done when you have 10 gears to do. Can you afford to have one jet down for a landing gear O/H that may take 4-6 weeks to complete? One interesting thing too is that there are many similar components and parts on the -400 fleet that can be cross utilized on the -200 airframe. The NASA SOFIA team ended up stripping the ABL (747-400) at D-M AFB AMARG, 3 years ago of many components and parts for use on their 747SP since they were in the same situation.

By the way, the -200 cannot be updated with the newer larger engines found on the 747-8 airframe. However the current VC-25 fleet is flying the best of the CF-6 series engines, the CF-6-80C2 with FADEC. These engines are still widely used around the world on the 747-400 and the 767 airframes. There are still plenty of spare engines in the world pool as well as parts for these engines (not motors). They have spare engines in the VC fleet at Andrews AFB and the best part of this is that if they needed an engine anywhere in the world, the fleet can draw from a major airline that is in close prox to supply one. That is one benefit to having an N registered airframe.

Mx logistics and support when it comes to a fleet, especially and small aging one, has many challenges. My concern is that if the USAF gets the 747-8 jets, how long can Boeing support it? The 747-8 production line has slowed to a crawl in order to keep it open with the hopes that they can gain more orders for the model to justify keeping it in production. The recent order for more of the 747-8 freighters from UPS a couple of months ago will help keep it open thru the next few years. But at some point, that production line will cease to exist. Much like the 757. Boeing would like to see an expansion of the 787 line into that 747 side of the building in Everett I suspect. There wont be as many 747-8's produced as was the -400 or -200 versions. So long term sustainment of the -8 for the VC fleet will become even more costly once the 747 line closes.
chuck martin 1
I need to correct a statement I made in an earlier post about the larger 747-8 engines not able to be mounted on the 747-200 wing. (old age error).

That is not necessarily true. GE flight tested the GE GenX engine on its 747-100 test bed aircraft on the # 2 pylon position, BUT that involved installing the larger pylon to accept the engine and possibly wing structure mod to accept the engine weight and loads.

Question is if the GE GenX 2B size engines found on some of the 747-8 production airframes can be installed at all 4 positions on the -200 wing. We know that it can handle at least one engine per wing, but all 4 positions? Uh that is a challenge and may no doubt create a new set of performance limitations or restrictions. As well as the # 2 and 3 engine ground clearance concerns due to the larger inlet. (Increased FOD risk).

Also, RR and PW has installed their 747-8 engines on their 747 test bed platforms in similar fashion. I haven't heard what engine the USAF has selected for the new VC airframe. I would be surprised if it were not the GE.

But the USAF has disappointed me before with recent aircraft programs engine choices.
chuck martin 1
Opps, also disregard the mention of the RR and PW engines for the 747-8 being tested. They tested the 787 engines on their 747 airframes. Sorry. I am losing my mind!
chuck martin 1
I just came across some data that shows there is plenty of ground clearance between the # 2 and 3 inlet for the 747 classic wings. No FOD or ground clearance issues.

So the point about the current fleet engines being replaced by newer engines, could be moot. Hummm.
chuck martin 3
If we were to buy 20 of these, the cost would likely be a bit less right? Its scale of economy pricing and the fact that these jets are so UNIQUE, that it will be difficult to get the pricing to a reasonable level. Look at the price of the B-2. When we intended on building ~ 130 airframes the price was much lower since our suppliers were building parts for a larger number of airframes, but when Clinton reduced the number to 21, the costs shot up significantly to nearly 2 billion per jet! Scale of economy.

Typically, airframe/engine/component mgfrs use a 1,000 production/cost model to see the ROI/Profit realization. Here however, we are taking a basic 747-8 Intercontinental airframe fitted with new larger efficient engines (That wont fit on the 747-200 wing), a different larger wing and a longer fuselage with better range. We are adding in-flight refueling (UARRSI) systems along with the latest in communication systems. As well the airframes and engines will be build to withstand EMP. As much of this work will be done in the normal production line in Everett, however most of the work will need to be outsourced to a finishing center, likely in Texas or?? (Not China- LOL).

Folks, doing this isn't cheap! We are taking 2 commercial derivative airframes (~$370 Mil each) and turning them into a war fighting, executive transport. A flying command post. We are not building a corporate jet like Trump Force One.

I recall when the VC25's were being modified in Texas back in the 80's, it was a LONG and laborious process. These airframes will have to be N registered, which will require a long engineering process with the FAA and Boeing in order to get the registration and airworthiness certification complete. There will be a massive number of STC's that will have to be accomplished which will involve large engineering teams from the manufacturers of various parts and systems, and the USAF and the FAA.

The costs are in large part, labor. That will be better than half the funding, ooh, doesn't that equate to "American Jobs"? This isn't a welfare program, it is a technical, professional type jobs that are high paying and worth the investment.

We do very little aircraft heavy maintenance and modification work here in the USA. Many of those USA jobs have gone off shore to China, Singapore and South America because the labor is cheaper. That's what our USA flag carriers have done these past 30 years. Boeing for a recent example sent the China Postal 757 & 737 P2F mods to China, knowing full well that we have the capabilities here in the USA to complete. United airlines has all the trip-7's heavy checks done in China. I think they also send their 747 fleet there as well.

Here is a chance to get some aviation jobs going again in the USA, yes it is just two airframes that will cost a lot of money to build and modify. But doing business with the government isn't cheap! I know many suppliers in this industry that absolutely refuse to participate in government programs. Thus the source pool is smaller for fair and competitive pricing for many unique parts and assemblies. One of the additional problems with these type of programs is the cumbersome and complex DFAR compliance. The DoD/USG acquisition regulations and protocols are very confining and restrictive and have a ton of oversight agencies involved in these contracts.

What the POTUS-elect says is that he is all about Gvt deregulation to remove the obstacles that hinder and obstruct businesses here in the USA. Well this is one big example of a program that he can do that with. He can drive the DoD/USAF and Boeing to identify what regs are slowing the process and driving the cost up.

Where can we LEAN out this process of acquisition to make it more affordable to the taxpayer and get the right aircraft built on schedule and on/or under budget. Don't just beat down the program due to sticker shock. Go out and get a proper understanding of what it takes to build these jets, put the right people on the job to fix it and get it done. Its a "shovel ready" job!
chuck martin 2
As an additional note about the cost. Both of these aircraft will also be going thru flight test before they are released to the Presidential Fleet. That is an additional cost aspect of the program and flight testing these jets isn't like an acceptance flight by an airline for a new 747-8 which is typically 1-3 flights at the factory. This FTP (Flight Test Program) will be extensive and involved.

The Leader of the Free World will be on it and it is our # 1 Flag Carrier. Cant afford to have it not working at every level, can we?
chuck martin 1
I also forgot to share that the YAL-1 ABL program was a single 747-400 derivative, highly modified airframe and high tech COIL laser systems and optics, cost for that program was over $5 Bil. To date, it was the most expensive single aircraft ever built in modern aviation history. Can you say "Spruce Goose"? And by the way, that airframe did not go to a museum and it had less than 300 cycles on it. It went to DM and went to the Hammer Mill.
David Barnes 2
To be fair, I think it's highly unlikely we will see either of the VC-25s meet the scrapper. Both have a far wider historic audience when compared to the YAL-1, having flown (so far) Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama.

They'll end up much like the VC-137Cs: in museums.
chuck martin 2
Oh yes I am in full agreement Sir. I was just sharing a trivia fact about YAL. Not trying to make a case that the VC jets will be scrapped. That would never stand any challenge. I made the same point in an earlier post to another gentleman. They will be museum birds for sure.
rugomol 3
By way, documentary about Vladimir Putin Air Force One Russia
Well President Elect-Trump is correct renegotiate. I had the opportunity to fly 26000 and 27000 back when Nixon was in office and was impressed with what we had then but still this price is too steep even in today's market.

Yes, AF1 has a lot of bells and whistles that are needed for a flying Command Post but the quoted cost is way too much.
The price Trump quotes is way overstated as the requirements are still being established. Cost of the airframes will be standard pricing with discounts. Then comes the outfitting. Remember when President Reagan ordered the current planes early in his presidency the airframes were completely rather quickly but it was the middle of President G.H.W.Bush's presidency before the Air Force innards were complete and they have had continued updates since - countermeasures against hand held missiles an example. Its not a dressed up pimpmobile.
ToddBaldwin3 2
Those tail numbers bring back some memories. I had the opportunity to service those aircraft at a certain contractor facility in Texas.
Barry Byrne 2
It's OK, you can say E-Systems here.
744pnf 2
Jerry Rader 2
Don't need any new Air Force One airplanes? Just when does Mr. Trump think they should be replaced - when they are 40, 50, or maybe 60 years old or older? Air Force One should probably have 4 engines, so where would he find any that many years from now? They had better get them now while they are still available. The cost to keep the old airplanes flying is not very inexpensive either, so new ones just may be cost effective.

There must be parts for the B747-200 that could fail or wear out which would no longer be available anywhere and the spares are all used up, maybe something as basic as a hydraulic or electrical component unique to the model.

[This poster has been suspended.]

David Barnes 7
Senor Sanch-esq:

Yes, you are correct that the engine manufacturer (in this case, GE) has manufactured many hundreds of the CF6 family of motors. What's noteworthy is that engines do have hour and cycle limits on components, which require maintenance action and/or outright replacement. As these aircraft get older, more and more of these parts will run out of time and require replacement. Finding serviceable engines will, indeed, become more of a problem in the future.

As with the engines, the parts that make up these components become harder to find. Manufacturers close up shop (a problem I've had to address in my current role) and alternate sources have to be found, inspected, and certified. Sometimes, the only option is to harvest retired aircraft. But again, the supply of serviceable donor parts is limited.

Finally, all large aircraft have a LOV (Limit of Validity) built into their maintenance program. This governs when structural issues become too great and too widespread (widespread fatigue damage) to ensure safety. Additional information can be found at If you doubt the significance and severity of problems that WFD can cause, I suggest you read up on Aloha Airlines Flight 243.

As the 747-200, from which the current VC-25s were developed, is largely out of service, the demand for, and thus the supply chain to support, spare parts for these aircraft, is becoming increasingly restricted.

Long story short, between parts manufacturers no longer supporting spares pools and WFD, aging aircraft need additional consideration in order to continue operation. At some point, the more economic decision is to replace the aircraft.

Finally, many operators, including the two US carriers operating the type, are retiring their 747-400s (introduced in 1989). The VC-25s you see operating today entered service in 1990. They are of similar age as those which are being retired.

Would YOU suggest we wait until the planes run out of useful life to order new ones? Keep in mind that five years elapsed from the order of the current fleet (1985) to entry into service (1990).
chuck martin 2
To add to Mr. Barnes comment, Boeing released a BOECOM MOM in 8-2012 addressing the FAA request for airframe LOV. They supplied a 2 table breakout for all the commercial airframe models they have produced are still in operation globally.

The MOM message provided operators with the FAA approved Limit of Validity values for the DC-8, DC-9, MD-80, DC-10, 727, 737-1/2/3/4/500, and 747, along with an update to the anticipated Limit of Validity values for the remaining Boeing models.

The FAA published its final rule regarding WFD (Widespread Fatigue Damage) on November 15, 2010. The rule, which took effect January 14, 2011, encompasses changes to 14 CFR 25, 14 CFR 26, and 14 CFR 121 and 129. It requires manufacturers to establish a Limit of Validity (LOV) for the engineering data that supports the structural maintenance program of most transport category airplanes and requires operators to adopt the LOV into their maintenance program.

The Boeing BOECOM-MOM was issued to satisfy the FAA compliance requirement. You can review the Federal Register report from Monday, November 15, 2010, at the link below. You will find it filled with data and interesting facts, not necessarily known, even by many within the aviation community, as it pertains to commercial aircraft operations and life cycle management.

Boeing was able to submit their final data to the FAA by January, 2016. This was for the group 2 and 3 classified airframes and the new suggested LOV values.

In Boeing's initial submittal, the 747-100/200/300/SP/SR had an initial FAA Approved LOV of 35,000 cycles (one takeoff/one landing) or 135,000 flight hours. I haven't seen the final submittal yet. But will look for it to see if has gone up or down.

Hope this answers some of good questions from other posters.
Jerry Rader 1
I have an idea that Boeing puts out requests to component manufactures for items that meet specific design requirements for specific model airplanes and that these components are not interchangeable with other models and are not used by other manufacturers. Having said that, maybe all components that fit the B747-200 are also used on the B747-400 and therefore would be available for a long time. So maybe my post is entirely out of place and I apologize.
DanWardlaw 2
Sorry to burst some of your bubbles, but what makes AF1 so expensive is the stuff the Air Force does to it. Sure Boeing builds it, but after that the Airforce takes delivery of it and that's where the magic happens. Boeing is right on thier price, give it to the military that's where the price jumps. 1 screw - $5000.00, wait... that's a Robinson head screw, now we can't have that for AF1 it's Canadian, order another one that's a Phillips, oh $8000.00 for the American screw,good let's go with it.

Giv8ng examples here not trying to start any b. Fests with anyone, just saying, the military knows how to charge. What do you think they'd do to Trumps plane, then they Ed have to scrap it afterwards as well... $$$
JSilva35 1
People really amaze me. AF1 is old and outdated they say. "Horrible". Look at the B-52's that defend our country. They are so old that your father and grandfather flew them. Think about that one for a moment. Father and Grandfather. It was used in Korea. AF1 can be upgraded to modern electronics if necessary. The airframe is perfectly good and there still are lots of parts from mothballed aircraft. I absolutely agree with Trump.
chuck martin 2
Just a historical correction point please. B52 never saw combat in Korean Conflict. First combat sortie was in Vietnam, 1960's. The first B-52A flew Aug. 5, 1954, after the Korean cease fire went into effect in July, 1953. As an added fact, there were only 3 A models built. The full production version was the B model and so on.
Jerry Rader 1
Think about that for a moment. There are 2 AF1 airplanes to keep in parts and __ (you fill in the numbers) B-52s still in service. It is more cost effective to keep making spare parts for many airplanes than for just 2. The cost to operate and maintain the older airplanes should be put into more efficient, modern airplanes. The average person would not want to keep feeding their 1986 car getting maybe 15 or 16 m.p.g. when they can achieve twice that much in a modern vehicle. The same applies to these airplanes. I'm not saying the new AF1 will use only half the amount of fuel as tho older ones but it will be significant.
Laura Burns 1
I certainly don't have the expertise some of you here have, just repeating what I read.

“The current fleet of VC-25 presidential aircraft has performed exceptionally well, a testament to the Airmen who support, maintain and fly the aircraft,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said. “Yet, it is time to upgrade. Parts obsolescence, diminishing manufacturing sources and increased down times for maintenance are existing challenges that will increase until a new aircraft is fielded."
Interesting challenge! If they don't purchase the new planes then the cost of maintenance goes up on the old one. Wonder when the cost of maintenance line crosses the replacement cost?

If Boeing backs down then the admit that they were price gouging the country. Looks like this talk will raise the cost of parts and maintenance for the the old plains which Boeing can charge whatever they want!
TWA55 1
I wonder if AF1 could be something smaller, for instance a C17, just thinking out loud. I could see many advantages to this plane.
linbb -2
Things need replacing and at the rate Obama flew the world they need a new one.
Jeremy Kudlick 11
Don't forget that two Presidents prior to Obama used these planes for eight years each, and George H. W. Bush also had them for a couple years. The VC-25s probably have far fewer cycles and hours than most 747s, including those delivered to passenger airlines in the 2000s.
btweston 9
The President used the presidential plane. Scandal.
chuck martin 1
He is a lifetime member of the POTUS F/F club. I am sure one of these airframes will end up at his Presidential Library.

[This poster has been suspended.]

btweston 4
Did you read the article?
tom treutlein 1
Strange that Mr. Sanchez asks very reasonable questions and yet is given many thumbs down. Seems like most folks here don't want any pesky facts to interfere with their opinions. I don't know the answers, but would like to know them, as I'll be footing part of the bill. I find it interesting that New Zealand seems to be in the mix. It is instructive that the Boeing built B-52 designed in the 1940's and built in the 1950's has been upgraded electronically several times, and is still an operational bomber, ok'd to haul around thermonuclear weapons. For those of us who were around at the time or who know history, these aircraft during the cold war flew huge numbers of hours and cycles, yet are still reliably flown by young men and women who may have to fight them.
joel wiley -1
The B-17 was the "flying fortress". It could and did soak up impressive damage and continue its mission. The VC-25? Not so much I think.
William Mihok 0
Its over specked for these times. Use a 787 with reduced passenger requirement.
chuck martin 2
POTUS's cant fly on 2 engine aircraft overseas or over water. although the 787 and most modern 2 engine aircraft have great ETOPS range approvals, you cant have the leader flying on 2 engine aircraft. Its a safety of flight and security issue. Redundancy is key to keep the leader of the free world safe.

By the way, there are times that the POTUS has used the 757 airframes to get around in country. Its rare but has been done.
David Barnes 1
What areas of AF1 do you suggest eliminating to fit into a 787? What over-spec capabilities do you see?
TWA55 0
The press corps, lol
Jon Vanmeter -2
Just because its old doesnt mean its past its usefulness..i.e. KC-135, B-52, A-10. Plus the added bonus of older technology being somewhat self hardened against EMP. Granted, they are getting long in the tooth and efficiency wasnt even a word when they were built but when has the Govt ever cared about what something cost to operate? It should be interesting to see how Boeing reacts and if Trump actually cancels this or if this is just political rhetoric.
Jim Lynch -5
1. The POTUSA should not be flying around in ANY theatre of war where his plane can be shot down. If he has caused his own country to be so divided and people so ignorant with access to almost any form of weapons then if one of his own people wants to shoot his m-f crazy ass down then so be it.

2. As evidenced by the F35, all dealings between Big Business and government has spiralled 100% completely and fully out of control, They are now asking $140 million _TO_HELP_ to do research on the aircraft capabilities - so how much will the actual research ITSELF cost?

3. $4 Billion dollars for two aircraft is WAY TOO MUCH, I don't give a rat's ass if they are even gold plated and have Trump's ass-print and name on it laser-etched in platinum.

Republicans complain about high taxes - they can start actually reacting by stopping the bleeding, and divert some of the savings to helping people (yeah, right!).
ToddBaldwin3 7
That $4 Billion figure was more of Mr. Trump's hyperbole. The actual budgeted cost, right now, is $2.7 Billion. Granted, that $2.7 Billion could, and probably will grow, might even reach or exceed the $4 Billion figure that Mr. Trump invented. Bear in mind, that the acquisition costs usually include spares and other life cycle items.
Looks good what happens to the old B742'S they had will they be parked up at Victorville for a buyer
According to the article, they will be preserved as museum pieces.
Roy Hunte 1
Or they may scrap them as they are pretty old.
chuck martin 2
Ah, scrap them because they are old? So every old aircraft in the Smith, and at the WPAFB Air Force Museum should be scrapped since they are old too? Really? What about the 707 AF 1 at the Reagan Library and Ike's Super Connie at the Pima, should be scrapped due to age? Your killing me. Roy, they wont be flying any more when "eventually" replaced.

They will go to the air museums. No sense wasting money scrapping them. The parts are obsolete for the most part and these aircraft are an important part of our American Presidential Aviation history.

Wouldn't be surprised to find one of these at the Obama Presidential library one day since he probably has the most frequent flyer miles on them than any other POTUS. LOL.


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