(CNSNews.com) – President Trump took a veiled swipe at unnamed Mideast allies Tuesday night, as he spoke to business leaders about plans to replace the ageing U.S. presidential jet.
“Air Force One now is 30 years old, which is old for the United States,” he said at a dinner at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. “I see other countries pulling up with their Boeing 747s that are brand new.”
“Middle Eastern countries, interestingly – we protect them for nothing, but that’s changing too. But they have their brand new Boeing 747s.”
Trump said Boeing had quoted $5.6 billion for two replacement aircraft.
“That’s got to be – that’s the world’s most expensive plane, that is,” he said.
“So, we worked very long and very hard, and we have the same exact product for $1.6 billion less – is that right?” he asked, a question apparently directed at Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, one of the guests.
“Hopefully we’ll get them a little sooner, and I think you’ll be able to produce them,” he said. “But they’ll be planes that will be representative of this country, and it’ll be something really great.”
Trump did not name the Mideast countries he had in mind, but among those whose leaders fly in Boeings are: Qatar (the emir reportedly has two Boeing 747-8s and well as various Airbus aircraft at his disposal), Saudi Arabia (the king’s 747 reportedly features a marbled steam room and five bedrooms); Kuwait (Trump was reported to have commented last fall that the emir’s 747-8 was bigger than his plane); Oman (whose sultan has access to three Boeing 747s as well as several Airbus and Gulfstream planes); and at least two of the United Arab Emirates, which have Boeing 747s for use of the emir of Dubai and the emir of Abu Dhabi.
Air Force One is the name assigned to any aircraft carrying the president of the United States, although the two most often used are modified Boeing 747-200Bs.
According to Boeing, two 747-200Bs were modified in 1990 to serve as Air Force One, replacing 707s that had served as the presidential jet for nearly 30 years.
The Department of Defense first announced back in January 2015 that Boeing 747-8s, one of the company’s largest, would serve as the next Air Force One.
Shortly after his election, President-elect Trump urged the Obama administration to cancel the Boeing order, tweeting, “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than US$4 billion. Cancel order!”
The company responded with a brief and careful statement. “We are currently under contract for $170 million to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serve the unique requirements of the President of the United States,” it said. “We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force on subsequent phases of the program allowing us to deliver the best planes for the President at the best value for the American taxpayer.”
Last February, the White House announced that Trump had reached an informal deal with Boeing to provide two Air Force One aircraft for $3.9 billion.
“Boeing is proud to build the next generation of Air Force One, providing American Presidents with a flying White House at outstanding value to taxpayers,” the company tweeted on February 27. “President Trump negotiated a good deal on behalf of the American people.”
The Pentagon confirmed last month that Boeing would be building “two presidential, mission-ready 747-8 aircraft” in San Antonio, Texas, with the $3.9 billion contract expected to be completed by December 2024.
The figures given by Trump in Tuesday’s off-the-cuff remarks – a saving of $1.6 billion off an original quote of $5.6 billion – differed from those provided by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders in a July 18 statement.
“The contract sets the total price for the two completed ‘Air Force One’ replacement aircraft at $3.9 billion, saving the taxpayers over $1.4 billion from the initially proposed $5.3 billion cost-plus contract,” it said.
According to Boeing, the 747-8 can fly 1,000 miles further than the 747-200s currently used by the president – a range of 7,730 nautical miles, or from Washington DC to Hong Kong.
It is also the fastest and longest commercial jet in the world, with a cruise speed of .855 Mach and a length of 250 feet and two inches.