The Air Force, which has been looking for ways to lower the cost of new planes for Air Force One, is talking to Boeing about buying two jumbo jets that were ordered but never delivered to a now-defunct Russian airline.
The Air Force and Boeing confirmed Tuesday that they are working on a deal involving Boeing 747s but declined to disclose further details.
Two people close to the matter said that the discussions are centered on planes that were ordered by a Russian carrier. They spoke anonymously because the deal is not final and has not been publicly announced.
The Air Force One program is managed by a two-star general at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Maj. Gen. Duke Richardson, who formerly led the Air Force Tanker Directorate, is in charge of replacing the current fleet of two Air Force One Boeing 747s with a newer version of the jumbo jet.
The post to oversee development of the next presidential aircraft was created earlier this year “given the recent high level interest in the program and desire to place the program under strong and effective senior general officer leadership,” an Air Force spokeswoman has said.
The Air Force One program has a workforce of about 100 employees at Wright-Patterson. As of February, the Air Force had a $172 million contract for design and testing and had budgeted $2.7 billion through 2021.
Trump has slammed the cost of a new Air Force One, saying it had more than a $4 billion price tag, and called for its cancellation in a Tweet in December prior to assuming the presidency.
He has met with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg, who told reporters in January the aerospace giant would simplify and streamline requirements “all of which is going to provide a better airplane at a lower cost.”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis ordered a review of the program in January.
The current list price for the Boeing 747-8 is $386.8 million, according to Boeing’s website. It was not clear whether that price would apply to planes that are already built and sitting in Boeing’s inventory. Also, buyers including airlines often get discounts for commercial planes. Additional modifications would greatly increase the final price tag.
The Air Force is eyeing two Boeing 747-8 aircraft that were ordered by Russian carrier Transaero but never delivered because the airline filed for bankruptcy protection in 2015, according to the people familiar with the matter. The planes were flown in February from Seattle, near the Boeing assembly plant, to a facility in Victorville, California, according to tracking service FlightAware.
RELATED: Air Force wants new Air Force Ones
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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