Boeing Begins Probe After Empty Tequila Bottles Found Aboard Air Force One Plane Under Construction
10:08 GMT 20.09.2021 (Updated: 20:53 GMT 19.10.2022)
The US aerospace giant is already facing mounting scrutiny over cost overruns and delays in the production of two Boeing 747-8 aircraft for the commander in chief, with their original $3.9 billion price tag increasing by at least $500 million, and the timeline for delivery pushed back 12 months from late 2024 to late 2025.
The Boeing Company has reportedly started a formal probe after two empty mini tequila bottles were found aboard a future Air Force One jet.
People said to be familiar with the situation told the Wall Street Journal that the fun size bottles were discovered sometime earlier this month aboard an under-construction aircraft at Boeing’s San Antonio manufacturing facility. WSJ’s sources did not specify where exactly the bottles were found, but one person said the company was taking the matter ‘extremely seriously’.
A Boeing spokesman confirmed that the incident took place, describing it as a ‘personnel matter’ and saying that the company was ‘working to improve’ its ‘quality and manufacturing operations’. A spokesperson from the Air Force – which is slated to operate the planes once they’re delivered, said they had been informed of the incident and assured that it would have no impact on production.
The Tequila bottle incident isn’t the first time that the aerospace and defence giant has faced problems with items being left behind in its commercial and military aircraft. Last year, it was reported that tools, rags, and various debris had been found in the fuel tanks of aircraft from Boeing’s troubled 737 Max line of jets. The global fleet of 737 Max jets was grounded after 346 people were killed in two separate incidents in late 2018 and early 2019. In 2019, Boeing faced problems with its KC-46 tanker line after tools and foreign object debris (FOD) were discovered in various locations inside brand new aircraft.
WSJ described the Air Force One jet incident as “particularly serious” due to the mixing of alcohol with highly classified jets, and their expected use by the president of the United States, who is supposed to be one of the most heavily protected people in the world. Air Force One jets are considered to be an effective “airborne seat of government,” and anyone involved in their construction is required to pass additional security clearance.
Delays and Cost Overruns
The new Air Force One programme faced scrutiny earlier this year, when top US Air Force officials told Defense News that the pair of new presidential Boeing 747-8s will likely be delivered a year late and cost at least $500 million more than the original $3.9 billion awarded to Boeing for their construction in 2018. Boeing blamed the delays on the coronavirus and subcontractor issues, as well as unforeseen cost overruns. The new planes were announced in the mid-2010s, with then-President-elect Donald Trump initially complaining about the procurement over its high costs, but later boasting about how he “had a lot to do with” their creation. The Government Accountability Office originally estimated the total price tag of the planes at $3.2 billion, but estimates have since increased to as much as $5.3 billion to account for ancillary costs, such as new hangars and technical manuals.
The new aircraft, known as VC-25Bs, are expected to be fitted with military-grade avionics, enhanced communications, and a self-defence system. Like their predecessors, the new planes are expected to be able to operate even in the worst-case security situation – up to and including nuclear war.
It’s been reported that the modified 747 airliners used in the programme were built for defunct Russian airline Transaero, which never took delivery of the jets.
The VC-25B is an upgrade to the VC-25A, a type of aircraft used by Air Force One since the early 1990s.