King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia would have Saudi Arabian Airlines purchase Boeing jets if his personal transport aircraft was outfitted with the communications and technology featured on Air Force One, a 2006 cable from US Ambassador James Oberwetter, and released by Wikileaks, says.
In 2006 then-US President George Bush wrote a letter to Abdullah "advocating" for Boeing and General Electric's $12b bid to upgrade the fleet of Saudi Arabian Airlines and Saudi Royal Flight, the arm that transports members of the Saudi royal family, Oberwetter writes.
Israel Hernandez, a senior Commerce Department Official, hand-delivered Bush's letter to Abdullah, who after reading it announced he "does not want anything to do with Airbus planes," Oberwetter writes.
Abdullah naturally favoured Boeing's bid, which included a proposal for 43 aircraft comprising 747-8s, 777s, and 787s for Saudi Arabian Airlines and 13 Boeing Business Jets, 747s, 777s, and 787s for Saudi Royal Flight.
But there was a catch. Abdullah wanted a new private jet and skipped an Airbus offer for two unspecified jets for a 747 from Saudi's fleet "with minimal hours on the engines," Oberwetter writes.
On this new 747 Abdullah was concerned about his personal safety and "wanted to have all the technology that his friend President Bush has on Air Force One," Oberwetter writes. Abdullah even "instructed" a US official to relay the message to Bush.
Abdullah said after he received his AF1-style upgraded 747 he would have the Saudi Government re-evaluate Boeing's bid. "God Willing," Oberwetter quotes Abdullah telling US officials, he would make a decision that will "please you very much".
The US did authorise an undisclosed "upgrade" to Abdullah's aircraft, the State Department confirmed to the New York Times.
After the facts of the cable, Saudi Arabian Airlines purchased eight 787s, and last November signed for 12 777-300ER jets, but no 747-8 order has matriculated--yet. In 2008 the carrier also purchased eight A330s.