The new Air Force One won't fly until 2026 — years after the military Boeing 747 was supposed to first take flight

  • Boeing and the US Air Force face further delays on their multibillion-dollar Air Force One project.

  • The first flight of the new Boeing 747-8i has been pushed back 16 months to March 2026.

  • This is yet another delay and Boeing has already suffered over $2 billion in overrun costs.

Boeing and the Trump Administration struck a $3.9 billion deal in 2018 to replace the country's aging 747 presidential fleet with two new Air Force One planes. They're already years behind schedule and now expect further delays.

An Air Force spokesperson told the military website Breaking Defense that the first flight of the next-generation Boeing 747-8i — set to replace the old 747-200Bs first put into service in the early 1990s — has been pushed back 16 months from this November to March 2026.

The spokesperson said Boeing is creating a revised schedule, expected later this summer, noting it "may result in changes to any dates provided." It's unclear when the deliveries will now occur.

In a statement confirming the news to Business Insider on Friday, the USAF said the latest delay was due to a mix of things, including "impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, interiors supplier transition, manpower limitations, wiring design timelines, and projected test execution rates."

Boeing declined to comment.

Boeing initially expected to deliver the first new 747 in late 2024. However, similar problems, including a bankrupt supplier, forced Boeing in 2022 to reschedule the first delivery for September 2026 at the earliest and the second for February 2027.

At the time, the USAF provided a one-year buffer for the planes' delivery, pushing the second's delivery to as late as 2028. This means the eventual delivery of the new VIP fleet will be at least three to four years late, and possibly more with the latest delay announcement.

According to Breaking Defense, ground-based subsystem testing to "power on" the plane is among the delays. The test was originally scheduled for May 2024 but is now set for July 2025.

Once eventually put into service for presidential use, the new VIP fleet will consist of bigger and more fuel-efficient 747-8i planes. The planes were originally destined for the now-defunct Russian carrier Transaero 2013 but were never delivered.

However, the old 747s are flying later than expected, thanks to continued program problems. In 2022, the Wall Street Journal reported that continuing to fly the old fleet may cost taxpayers $390 million.

The setbacks have already cost Boeing more than $2 billion, raising the total project expense to around $5.3 billion.

Boeing's financial strain stems from the fixed-price agreement it made with the Trump Administration, which made the manufacturer responsible for any overrun costs.

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said during a 2022 investor call that the deal posed "a very unique set of risks that Boeing probably shouldn't have taken" but remained committed to delivering the aircraft.

Issues with the current fleet

The call sign "Air Force One" applies to any aircraft carrying the president, but it is most directly associated with a specially configured 747 known as VC-25. This aircraft is unlike any standard 747 and has a number of added capabilities, ranging from electronic and communications equipment to an executive suite.

The new VC-25B program, based on the 747-8i, will replace the Air Force's current VC-25A fleet. These aging aircraft face "capability gaps, rising maintenance costs, and parts obsolescence as it ages beyond 30 years," according to a Department of Defense report.

"The Boeing 747-8 aircraft will be uniquely modified to provide the President, staff, and guests with safe and reliable air transportation with an equivalent level of communications capability and security available in the White House," the report said.

The modifications will include an "electrical power upgrade, dual auxiliary power units that are usable in flight, a mission communication system, an executive interior, military avionics, a self-defense system, autonomous enplaning and deplaning, and autonomous baggage loading," the report added.

The VC-25B fleet is also slated to have a longer range, cruise speed, and maximum takeoff weight than its predecessor.

Read the original article on Business Insider