Boeing says coronavirus has impacted work on new Air Force One

Boeing says coronavirus has impacted work on new Air Force One
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Work on the new Air Force One has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, the maker of the presidential aircraft revealed Wednesday while saying the program remains on schedule.

A number of Boeing programs including the Air Force One replacement known as the VC-25B were “impacted by COVID-19,” company executive vice president and CFO Greg Smith said during an earnings call.

Smith only gave vague details as to how work on the program was affected, saying later in the call that with employees working virtually, “particularly on the engineering side ... certainly has created some inefficiencies that has caused us to reevaluate our estimate to complete those efforts.”

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He added that “the program remains on schedule.”

When asked for more details, a Boeing spokesman would only say that the company does not anticipate an impact to the program schedule or the contractual delivery date of 2024.

The announcement follows assurances earlier this month from the Air Force that no coronavirus-related delays to the program were expected.

Boeing in February began work on refurbishing two of its 747-8 variants, known as the VC-25B, at a plant in San Antonio, Texas.

The service’s top acquisition official Will Roper said April 16 that he didn’t expect any schedule delays to the new presidential aircraft due to the spreading disease.

“Work continues down in Texas … and we’ve been able to benefit from COVID-19 on the defense side because a lot of the engineers and tools and talent that would be dedicated to other commercial functions within Boeing have now been available to help that program,” Roper said, according to Air Force Magazine.

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The Air Force did not immediately return a request for comment.

President Trump has targeted a new Air Force One buy since 2016 — before he moved into the White House — claiming that the program was too expensive at $4.4 billion and should be axed.

Trump later met several times with then-Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and the price was brought down to $3.9 billion to modify two aircraft into the presidential plane.

Defense One later reported, however, that once all costs are added up — including $84 million for new instruction manuals — the Air Force will pay a total $5.3 billion.

The Air Force One delay reveal also comes the same day Boeing announced that it would lay off about 10 percent of its total workforce, around 16,000 people, due to fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

Updated: 3:44 p.m.