Boeing blinks; promises Trump lower cost for Air Force One

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg speaks to members of the media after meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. | AP Photo

WASHINGTON — After meeting with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg on Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump said he persuaded the Chicago company to cut the price tag for the pending Air Force One order by “a tremendous amount.”

On Dec. 6, Trump threatened to cancel or renegotiate Boeing’s Air Force One deal and accused Boeing, with no evidence, of “doing a little bit of a number” over costs.

“Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!” Trump said on Twitter.

According to the General Accounting Office, delivery for two new presidential planes is planned for fiscal year 2024. In a March report, the GAO pegged research, development and actual procurement for the aircraft at about $3.5 billion. Any plane a president is on is called Air Force One.

Trump and Muilenburg met at the president-elect’s Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. After the afternoon discussion, Trump talked briefly with reporters and was asked if the Boeing CEO meeting “produced positive results.”

“I think so. We had the chairman of Boeing, the CEO, and I think we’re looking to cut a tremendous amount of money off the program,” Trump said, offering no specifics.

Muilenburg told reporters, “We’re going to get it done for less than that, and we’re committed to working together to make sure that happens.”

“And I was able to give the president-elect my personal commitment on behalf of the Boeing Co. This is a business that’s important to us. We work on Air Force One because it’s important to our country, and we’re going to make sure that he gets the best capability and that it’s done affordably.”

Muilenburg headed into his Trump meeting with a serious threat hanging over him. Trump also said in a Twitter post: “Have you not read Art of The Deal? This is how I strike my deals. If Air Force One costs more than $4 Billion, Boeing you are fired!”

Muilenburg said the meeting “went great. Very productive, and really encouraged by the dialogue. Good, open discussion. And we’re all focused on the same thing here, we’re going to make sure that we give our warfighters the best capability in the world and that we do it in a way that is affordable for our taxpayers. And his business head set around that is excellent. It was a terrific conversation. Got a lot of respect for him. He’s a good man. And he’s doing the right thing.”

Asked about the new Air Force One, Muilenburg said, “We discussed a range of topics. We did talk about Air Force One and again the same focus here on making sure we get the best capability, make sure the president is secure and that we protect national security and that we do it affordably.”

While Boeing’s global headquarters is in Chicago, it employs about 160,000 people across the United States and in more than 65 countries. Its U.S. manufacturing centers include Washington state, Missouri and South Carolina.

At present, there is no $4 billion order. Boeing has a $170 million contract to “help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serve the unique requirements of the President of the United States,” the company said.



More from the Chicago Sun-Times

You must subscribe to access this content.
Please take advantage of one of our subscriber options to access more of our content.