Air Force One delay is Boeing’s latest setback

Air Force One is a recognizable symbol of American might, but the prestige that the presidential plane generates for its manufacturer Boeing declines amid a legal feud in Texas and the prospect of delays and higher costs to U.S. taxpayers.

Boeing has told the U.S. Air Force it expects a one-year delay in delivering the pair of upgraded 747-8 planes. Each tri-level jet will have a presidential office, a medical room that can serve as an operating room, and two kitchens to feed up to 100 passengers.

Boeing also asked the air force more money. The contract to remake the planes is worth $ 3.9 billion, up from $ 5 billion after former President Donald Trump called the higher figure “ridiculous.”

Meanwhile, Boeing and bankrupt supplier GDC Technics are suing a San Antonio, Texas court over who is to blame for the delay.

The program represents a fraction of Boeing’s revenue, which stood at $ 58 billion in 2020. Still, it worries some analysts because it is another black eye in a string of issues ranging from from minor to catastrophic: debris left in USAF KC-46 refuellers, the capsule of the Starliner crew that failed to reach the International Space Station, halting deliveries of 787s and both crashes 737 Max which killed a total of 346 people.

Air Force One’s problems contribute “to the general impression that Boeing has serious shortcomings in the management and delivery of programs, both in its commercial and military operations,” said Teal analyst Richard Aboulafia .

“It’s on top of each other, on top of the other,” added Ron Epstein, Bank of America analyst. “That’s the problem, not Air Force One per se. This is yet another escaped. . . It really makes you wonder what’s going on in their engineering organization.

A spokeswoman for Boeing said the company had brought together 50,000 engineers into a single function within the company to unify responsibility for safety, and appointed an aerospace safety officer in January. She added that the KC-46 has made over 4,000 flights for the Air Force so far, Nasa and Boeing have successfully tested the Starliner’s software for a second attempt to reach the ISS. and the Max places orders.

While prestige projects rarely generate profits, they enhance a company’s reputation. The Air Force One call sign can technically apply to any aircraft carrying the US President, but since the 1960s it has referred to a specially equipped jet, bearing the Presidential seal and the US flag. .

The two Boeing 747-200B which transport President Joe Biden have 4,000 square feet of space, can refuel in the air, and have ruggedized on-board electronics to protect against electromagnetic pulse disturbance. Communication equipment is built in such a way that the aircraft can function as a mobile command center if the United States is under attack.

The first of the current Air Force One jets entered service in 1990. The replacement planes are 747-8s on which the now defunct Russian airline Transaero failed and which were sitting in a “boneyard”. Planes in the Mojave Desert. They are being renovated in San Antonio, Texas.

Boeing has contracted with GDC to design and build new interiors for the jets, as well as to perform maintenance work on current Air Force One aircraft. (The programs are known as VC-25B and VC-25A, respectively.) On April 7, Boeing sued GDC in state court, claiming the contractor was behind on the production schedule, no. ‘had failed to meet design specifications and, despite Boeing’s financial assistance, lacked sufficient cash to pay other suppliers and employees.

“GDC’s precarious condition continues to put Boeing’s commitments at [US Air Force] customer on VC-25A and VC-25B at risk, ”said the lawsuit. “So Boeing had no choice but to cancel the VC-25B and VC-25A subcontracts.”

The “company’s failures have resulted in millions of dollars in damage,” Boeing said, and it demanded that GDC return parts, tools, drawings, raw materials and subcontracts. The list of items the aerospace maker wants to salvage spans 11 pages and includes 25 gallons of “Spa White” paint.

GDC counterattacked nine days later. In its lawsuit, the company said that while Boeing was claiming to terminate the contract due to GDC’s insolvency, the manufacturer “had not informed the US Air Force that GDC’s financial problems were mainly due to the default. of Boeing to its contracts with GDC “.

The supplier’s financial stress stems from the fact that Boeing owes more than $ 20 million in payments, according to the GDC lawsuit. He said the company was willing to return the materials after Boeing paid, but the manufacturer refused.

The GDC lawsuit also said Boeing mismanaged the Air Force One program. He said GDC informed the Chicago-based company before Boeing continued that the “VC-25B program as a whole has not followed the contractual schedule for more than 18 months, and GDC is currently awaiting a revised schedule from Boeing. . GDC cannot be forced to meet a schedule it does not have.

“Due to its engineering problems, program management and its own financial difficulties, Boeing has fallen behind in the schedule of the aircraft project,” the lawsuit said. “Boeing viewed GDC as a scapegoat. “

GDC filed for bankruptcy on April 26 and laid off 223 employees.

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