And that would mean added costs for taxpayers.
The request for a delay was disclosed Tuesday by Darlene Costello, the acting assistant secretary of the Air Force, at a House subcommittee hearing.
“Boeing has informed us that they believe it will be about 12 months beyond their original schedule,” said Costello. She cautioned that the Air Force has not yet agreed to the delay and is looking to set a new delivery timetable.
“I wouldn’t expect it to be more [time] than Boeing would say,” she said.
The covid-related issues involve employees who worked on the planes who got sick or otherwise had to be quarantined and could not be replaced because of the high level of security clearance needed to work on parts of the jets.
The subcontractor, GDC Technics, had a deal with Boeing to design and build the interiors of the planes. But Boeing fired GDC in April and then sued the company for breach of contract in Texas state court — charging that it “failed to meet schedule requirements.” GDC countersued, and filed for bankruptcy protection later that month.
Costello said that Boeing has filed a notice with the Air Force of its intention to ask for more money under what would be known as a “request for equitable adjustment.” Boeing would not comment on how much more money Boeing might seek for its own work on the planes. It has already taken a $318 billion charge related to costs associated with the program.
“Obviously this is a disappointment to all of us,” said Rep. Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat and the subcommittee’s chairman. “We thought maybe this was a program where the government actually got a good deal here.”
Even just approving a delay for the new planes will result in an increased cost to taxpayers. The current jets have been in use since 1990, during six presidential administration starting with President George H.W. Bush. They will likely require another round of costly overhaul maintenance if their lifespan is extended past the planned 2024 retirement, Costello told the committee.
Technically, the Air Force One designation applies to any plane on which the president flies, so the planes being worked on by Boeing currently do not have that moniker. Boeing and the Air Force refer to the air craft themselves as VC-25B.
The planes start with a standard 747 and add state-of-the-art communications, missile avoidance systems, inflight refueling, VIP interior and protections from the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear blast. That takes years and adds hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost. The work is now being done at a Boeing facility in San Antonio, Texas.