The Air Force said Wednesday that the Boeing 747-8 will serve as the next presidential aircraft.
“The presidential aircraft is one of the most visible symbols of the United States of America and the office of the president of the United States,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement. “The Boeing 747-8 is the only aircraft manufactured in the United States (that), when fully missionized, meets the necessary capabilities established to execute the presidential support mission, while reflecting the office of the president of the United States of America consistent with the national public interest.”
Before it closed its Wichita facility, Boeing did much of the work on previous presidential aircraft, known as Air Force One, locally.
As the current fleet has aged, and the Pentagon has prepared to award contracts for a new Air Force One, there has been speculation about whether a 747 pick would help extend the life of the model. Other than the presidential air fleet, there has been little demand for the 747, and its future has been in doubt.
The news release from the Pentagon states the Air Force wanted a “four-engine, wide-body aircraft … to meet the needs of the Air Force One mission.”
“Market research determined there are two four-engine platforms that could meet the requirements; the 747-8 manufactured by Boeing in the state of Washington, and the A380 manufactured by Airbus in Toulouse, France.”
The decision to go with the 747-8 was made in “conjunction with the notification of the Air Force’s intent to award a sole-source contract to Boeing” for modification of the plane. It also allows discussions that are likely to lead “to a contract for the aircraft platform as well as the modifications necessary to missionize the aircraft.”
“This decision is not a contract award to procure 747-8 aircraft,” Col. Amy McCain, the presidential aircraft recapitalization program manager, said in a statement. “We still need to finalize the overall acquisition strategy and conduct risk-reduction activities with Boeing to inform the engineering and manufacturing development contract negotiations that will define the capabilities and cost.”