- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 9, 2021

President Biden may need to get reelected if he wants to catch a ride on the next generation of Air Force One, the presidential plane.

Boeing is behind schedule on its contract to build two new Air Force One aircraft and likely won’t make its plan to deliver the first upgraded version of the “Flying White House” in 2024 as originally projected.

The aerospace and defense giant is asking for an additional 12 months beyond the original schedule. Air Force officials told lawmakers on Capitol Hill they are reviewing the request.

Just because the company says it needs another year doesn’t mean the Air Force will sign off on that, said Darlene Costello, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics.

“I wouldn’t expect [the delay] to be more than what Boeing is saying,” Ms. Costello said.

She testified this week before the House Armed Services’ Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee on the controversial plan to replace the aging Air Force One planes with upgraded versions that will be formally identified as VC-25B. 

The Air Force One replacement program has been plagued with a number of headaches.  President Trump in 2018 reached an informal deal with Boeing to go forward with a $3.9 billion contract and boasted of having convinced the company to lower their price by more than $1 billion.

Boeing is reportedly considering asking the Air Force to pay more for the new presidential aircraft because of unforeseen costs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Rep. Joe Courtney, chairman of the subcommittee, expressed disappointment at the request for more money.

“We thought maybe this is a program where the government got a good deal,” said Mr. Courtney, Connecticut Democrat.

Boeing canceled a deal with Texas-based GDC Technics, a subcontractor for the interior of the aircraft, saying the company failed to meet the contracted deadline. Both companies filed lawsuits against each other, with Boeing saying the GDC was responsible for millions of dollars worth of damages to them. GDC filed for bankruptcy and said any problems were the result of mismanagement from Boeing officials.

Air Force officials said they should have the new Air Force One delivery schedule by September 2021.

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

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