Before his inauguration, President Donald Trump raged about how the US Air Force's program to replace its two aging VC-25A aircraft—the heavily modified 747-200 aircraft known as Air Force One when in service—was too expensive. Via Twitter, he declared that the cost of the program was out of control and said, "Cancel order!"
But the Air Force has pressed on with its plans to purchase two newer 747-8 aircraft to replace the existing presidential transports, for good reason: the VC-25As currently in service have been flying since the George H.W. Bush administration. Fortunately, the Air Force has managed to find a way to save on the $386.8 million price tag for each of the two 747-8s needed—with a little help from Russia.
As Defense One's Marcus Weisberger reports, Boeing has two completed 747-8 aircraft that were ordered in 2013 by the Russian airline Transaero, which used to be Russia's second-largest air carrier. But Transaero went bankrupt two years after placing the order and making partial payment for the planes. Russia's Aeroflot acquired Transaero's operations, but the airline decided not to complete the purchase of the two 747s. That left Boeing stuck with two completed, flight-tested aircraft and no buyer. Five months ago, the planes were flown to a storage facility in the Mojave Desert to preserve them until Boeing could find someone to take them off its hands.
The Air Force came to the (somewhat delayed) rescue and is currently negotiating a deal for the aircraft. In a prepared statement, Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek told the press, "We're working through the final stages of coordination to purchase two commercial 747-8 aircraft and expect to award a contract soon."