The US Is Considering Buying Abandoned Russian 747s To Replace Air Force One

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Boeing planes have been transporting US presidents since President Roosevelt, and at the moment a 747-200 serves as “Air Force One.” There are two 747-200s in the Air Force fleet that can potentially operate as Air Force One, the first of which was delivered in 1990. Obviously this is an aging plane, so it was announced a while back that the government and Boeing had entered into a deal to acquire new 747-8s to act as Air Force One.

However, President Trump wasn’t happy with this excessive spending, as he called for the government to cancel the order due to the $4 billion price tag (others dispute those cost estimates, but that’s what he said).

Well, it looks like Air Force One will indeed be a 747-8, though the government will acquire these planes at a lower cost.

The Hill is reporting that Boeing and the government are in the final stages of negotiating a deal for two 747-8s that are currently stored:

The Air Force will reportedly attempt to lower costs on a pair of new presidential planes by buying two Boeing 747 jetliners abandoned by a bankrupt Russian airline.

Service officials are “working through the final stages of coordination to purchase two commercial 747-8 aircraft,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Defense One.

The deal could be announced as soon as this week, though the Air Force is not expected to release the contract value, according to the report.

The story here is interesting. Russian airline Transaero had ordered some 747-8s in 2013, though the airline went out of business in 2015 (which is super sad, since I never had the opportunity to try their interesting looking first class).


The planes were flight tested but then put into storage by Boeing, and haven’t found a buyer since. So this seems like a logical enough move, since presumably the government can get a deal on these planes.

However, I suspect it will still be a while before they’re actually in service. There are significant modifications required to get a plane up to Air Force One standards, though I suspect it could be flying as Air Force One within a few years. I do wonder what the total cost will be here, given the modifications required.

Interesting stuff. I actually didn’t realize that these 747-8s had been in storage all along. What a waste — too bad no other airline wanted them. I know at one point Iran Air was interested in these planes, though that deal fell through.

Now, before anyone starts any Trump/Russia conspiracy theories, keep in mind that this plane was never delivered to Transaero — it has been in Boeing’s possession all along. 😉

(Tip of the hat to Andrew)

  1. “I knew at what point Iran Air was interested in these planes, though that deal fell through.”

    at what point? 😉

  2. I know when they were building the US Embassy in Moscow, every brick and every light switch was flown in from the US out of fear that the Russian government would try to bug the place if the supplies used to build the building came from Russia.

    I wonder if they’ll take any special precautions to make sure there aren’t any bugs in this particular plane, since it was Russian owned at one point.

  3. “Now, before anyone starts any Trump/Russia conspiracy theories, keep in mind that this plane was never delivered to Transaero — it has been in Boeing’s possession all along. ”

    Can’t blame people for going to where you invited them to go with a post title that is an undeniable clickbait!

  4. If the Transaero interiors were installed, 45 could probably just take delivery “as is”. There’s almost enough gold plating.

    (NOTE: This is not a political post, per se. Simply a reminder that our current Commander and Chief, regardless of his politics, has less taste in decor than a color blind 3rd grader.)

  5. The frikken hilarious part is that Trump and his family/co-conspirators will all be in jail by the time they outfit these planes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    LOCK HIM UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. @DCS – That was a legitimate question comment that I would’ve asked regardless of which party controls the WH. Read up on how they built the US Embassy in Moscow and you’ll see why it’s not such an absurd question to ask.

  7. The major costs of having a new AF1 are not the airplane itself. It’s not like the DoD is just stupidly overpaying for a plain old 747-8. The $4B+ cost comes from the massive amount of systems engineering and work to make a plain old 747-8 into all the functionality (and assurance) that comes with an AF1 versus a regular plane. There are probably costs that can be squeezed out of that, but it’s not like you’re going to reduce it by 50%… without having to compromise on some of that functionality.

  8. You hit the nail on the head Erick.
    @Lucky UN used to fly to YYZ until SY undercut them and drove them out of the market. From everything I read they were supposed to have a very good F product. Irony is SU then then dumped YYZ because their 333s were unprofitable and they were getting rid of their 763s, which had made money.

  9. The title of the story is a little click baity, because the planes are not Russian and were never owned by any Russian or Russian company. The planes were ordered by a Russian company, but because delivery was never taken, the planes belong to Boeing, have always been Boeing, and if anything the headline should read “The US Is Considering Buying Abandoned Boeing 747s (once destined for a bankrupt Russian company) To Replace Air Force One”.

  10. @SVCav — The B748 planes were flight tested and then put in storage IN THE US because the Russian airline that had ordered them went out of business before taking delivery. So, I fail to see the parallel between that and the extreme but appropriate caution that was exercised in the construction of the US Embassy in Moscow.

    But my comment related to the title of this blog post, which is a classic clickbait because what the story turns out to be is not exactly what one thinks it is from just reading the ominous sounding title. Nothing to do with party affiliation or politics…

  11. @schmitt. “Its not like the DoD is just stupidly overpaying …”. I wouldn’t make that assumption. Their history tells us otherwise.

  12. Can anyone explain why Boeing Have not been able to sell these planes to another airline? I believe they are still building this mode so it’s not like they don’t have any orders.

  13. If more than 50% of 4 bio goes to customize the new plane, buying old old unused won’t make much different. But it would be good campaign of cost concious administration tough….

  14. @SFCav

    Yes, I’m sure evil Russians went to Everett, were left alone at the factory, had the foresight to predict Transaero would go bankrupt, also knew that these planes might one day be re-modeled into Air Force One and therefore, of course, installed 2017-grade spy equipment in them back in 2013.

  15. Acquiring these commercial 747-8s would seem to have little impact on the cost of the new Air Force Ones because the airframe is a small part of the final cost. The overwhelming part of the cost is fitting these planes with the special equipment required for making them airborne White Houses and command centers as well as the defensive systems that are installed. Retrofitting exiting aircraft means ripping out the existing interiors and might even increase costs compared to than building new aircraft specifically designed to meet these requirements.

  16. @DCS absolutely. The headline suggests just the opposite. I understand Boeing had possession of these planes the whole time but I do wonder if any russian business people somehow benefit from boeing being able to sell these planes. Like would it reduce the amount that airline may owe in bankruptcy etc? If anyone in Russia benefits from this deal in anyway then I find it suspect. If all the profits go to Boeing and there is no benefit to third parties then its fine.

  17. Mr. Trump is simply the finest man our nation has ever nown. I gurantie you that when it cumes to negotiatingg their is nobody beter. Whativer he decides too do with his plane wil be the best four America.


  18. @peter m the issue with a 777 would be the twin engines. Af1 is designed for extreme contingencies and they would absolutely want 4 engines.

  19. Your readers would respect you much more if you tone down the juvenile click baiting. For a so called “premium cabin” expert, you do write in a horribly grating manner.

  20. “Yes, I’m sure evil Russians went to Everett, were left alone at the factory, had the foresight to predict Transaero would go bankrupt, also knew that these planes might one day be re-modeled into Air Force One and therefore, of course, installed 2017-grade spy equipment in them back in 2013.”

    Have you _watched_ The Americans?

  21. “Yes, I’m sure evil Russians went to Everett, … of course, installed 2017-grade spy equipment in them back in 2013.”

    Have you _watched_ The Americans?

  22. Thank you Andy. That makes sense.

    And to DiscountEconomyFlyer, what is to be gained by saying such things in such a tone? You can’t think Ben will change his writing because of your post, right?

    No gain, only bad feelings, are the result, as I see it.

  23. @Ivan Y

    They’re building 747-800F models, for which there is, albeit limited, demand. These two are passenger models and although they’re still technically a plane Boeing offers to customers, there’s no existing backlog of orders and most experts believe the program is dead.

  24. @erick schmitt

    Absolutely true and govt/defense contracting allows for endless change orders which often doubles or triples or even quadruples estimates.

    A relative (long since passed away) worked on the interiors for the current AF1 in the Boeing plant.

  25. Several (a couple?) commenters have mentioned that the enormous price tag for AF1 comes from the mods necessary post-production of the airframe and that the airframe is of minimal cost overall. Assuming that’s so, then aren’t we still saving *something*, even if only marginal? I’m in no way a fan of the current administration, but let’s call a spade a spade…if there’s any cost savings at all, what’s the big deal? In theory, the administration is still saving tax-payer money, why the need to say, “Well, they’re not saving us THAT much, so why even try?” That’s a very silly and immature position to take. Is a new, full-cost 747-8 better than a 4-year-old 747-8 that’s been in storage and comes at a discount? You can loathe the prez all you want, but at least be recognizing of small triumphs.

    And yeah, the title is super clickbait-y.

  26. I’m surprised it will even be possible to modify an existing 747 into AF1-spec. Given the extensive customizations, it’s probably easier to start from scratch. I guess they could use the same engines.

  27. @AdamR

    It’s great to save money, but I’d be wary of painting the cancellation threat as all about virtuosity. President Trump only started complaining about the AF1 replacement price tag after he found out the new frames wouldn’t be ready by the end of his hypothetical 8-year term*. Maybe he thinks with these changes he’ll get to use them while in office.

    *extreme hypothetical

  28. @Adam, My comment was totally apolitical. It is unclear that converting Transaero 747s to Air Force Ones will save any money.

    Here’s the political rant. Saving money is not Trump’s top priority or he wouldn’t keep his wife and son in a separate residence for nine or 10 months of the year. Nor would Trump have visited his golf properties 43 times so far this year. I bet Trump’s clubs charge taxpayers a pretty penny to accommodate these outings. I remember Trump criticizing President Obama for his golf and claiming he would be too busy to play golf if elected. Trump’s claims about saving money are almost as hypocritical as his Made in America week while almost all of the products he and Ivanka sell are produced overseas.

  29. @DiscountEconomyFlyer Please would you expand on how being a good writer and a ‘Premium Cabin Expert’ are supposed to go hand in hand. Personally I don’t see a link but would love to know why you think there should be one.

  30. Only liberals can find fault when the president does a good job, and saves the American taxpayers money by making a commonsense decision of buying a plane that’s in storage.

    If Boeing has two 7478’s already built just sitting there that we can pick up on the cheap, what’s the problem? This is called being fiscally responsible.

  31. This title is click bait at its finest.

    They’re not abandoned, they’re simply undelivered. There’s a major difference there and the title contradicts your last paragraph, which is accurate.

  32. I’m an engineer and I’ve been on the current 747-200s used as AF1. I’d actually suggest that this is a smart move my Defense to move the project forward. The current planes that serve as AF1 and the upgraded systems are obsolete and replacing parts will become increasingly difficult. This project needed to be done. But, that said, I doubt they’ll save any money. They’ll have to replace all the interiors and retrofit many of the existing systems. They’ll likely spend more, but it won’t show up as a single acquisition now.

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