Boeing will apply commercial practices to the Air Force One recapitalisation in an effort to drive down costs, Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg told president-elect Donald Trump during a meeting this morning in New York.
Muilenburg emerged from his meeting this afternoon at the president-elect’s transition headquarters at Trump Tower, telling reporters he and Trump discussed both the presidential aircraft recapitalisation programme and fighter jets. Though Muilenburg did not elaborate on the fighter jet discussion, it could be a reference to Trump's recent comments on Twitter that he would pit Boeing's F/A-18 against Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
"We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices," Muilenburg says. "All of that is going to provide a better airplane at a lower costs."
Boeing made a similar promise to use commercial certification for the US Air Force's KC-46 tanker programme, which increased the cost of KC-46 development.
Today's meeting marks the second rendezvous with Boeing, following Trump’s tweet in December alleging the replacement of two 747-200-derived VC-25As would cost more than $4 billion. Trump continued to rail against the recapitalisation programme in a 7 December interview on NBC, saying he would negotiate and drive down the price of the aircraft. But in that same interview, Trump struck a conciliatory tone toward Muilenburg, who had contacted Trump to discuss the programme.
“I spoke to a very good man yesterday — the head of Boeing. Terrific guy. We’re going to work out,” Trump told NBC.
The press scrums staked out in the lobby of Trump Tower have seen a steady steam of visits by cabinet nominees and executives, including some from the aviation community hoping to strike a deal with the incoming president. On Friday, Lockheed Martin chief executive Marillyn Hewson met with Trump to talk about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Once during his campaign and more recently over social media, the president-elect has targeted the programme as an example of wasteful spending.
But Hewson appeared optimistic following the meeting, telling reporters a deal on a new contract would create 1,800 jobs at the F-35 facility in Fort Worth, Texas and more across the US.
“I told him that we are close to a deal on a new contract that reduces the price for the next 90 aircraft significantly,” she said. “I also had the opportunity to share some of our ideas on how to continue to drive the cost down in the F-35.”
The aircraft are already expected to drop in price as Lockheed ramps up to full-rate production. The government has also instituted a blueprint for affordability programme, with the aim to drive down the price per aircraft to $85 million by 2019. In 2015, Lockheed had set an $80 million per jet goal by 2019, FlightGlobal previously reported.