Boeing’s 747-8 wide-body jet airliner has been selected by the US Air Force (USAF) to serve as the next presidential aircraft, commonly known as Air Force One.
The current presidential air transport fleet comprises two VC-25s, which are specially configured Boeing 747-200B airliners carrying tail numbers 28000 and 29000. These often operate in conjunction with Marine One helicopters.
US Air Force secretary Deborah Lee James said: "The Boeing 747-8 is the only aircraft manufactured in the United States (that), when fully missionised, meets the necessary capabilities established to execute the presidential support mission, while reflecting the office of the president of the United States of America, consistent with the national public interest.
"This platform will meet the requirements necessary to provide that level of service for future presidents."
The 747-8 is manufactured by Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Washington. It is one of the only two aircraft capable of meeting the USAF requirements, which seeks a four-engine, wide-body aircraft for the Air Force One mission.
The second such aircraft is the A380 manufactured by Airbus in Toulouse, France.
Boeing is set to be awarded a sole source contract by the USAF for the modification of the 747-8. However, it will enter discussions with the company that will likely lead to a contract for the aircraft platform as well as the modifications necessary to missionise the aircraft.
Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) programme manager colonel Amy McCain said: "This decision is not a contract award to procure 747-8 aircraft.
"We still need to finalise the overall acquisition strategy and conduct risk-reduction activities with Boeing to inform the engineering and manufacturing development contract negotiations that will define the capabilities and cost."
In addition, the service intends to own enough of the technical baseline to permit competition for sustainment throughout the aircraft’s planned 30-year life cycle.
James said: "We are committed to incorporating competition for subsystems of the missionised aircraft as much as practicable, and will participate substantively in any competitions led by the prime contractor."
The third-generation 747-8 airliner is claimed to be the largest Boeing 747 version. It features lengthened fuselage and redesigned wings, as well as improved efficiency, compared to its predecessor.
Image: Boeing’s 747-8 wide-body jet airliner has been selected to serve as the next US Presidential aircraft. Photo: courtesy of moonm.