Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My President Should Never Ride in a 'Bus

As all eyes were on Washington, D.C. lately, we pilots and aviation fans were thinking how cool it must be for Barack Obama and his family to ride in the baddest jumbo jet on the planet, the USAF's VC-25, aka Air Force One.

The National Geographic TV channel has been running a new special about President Obama's first ride on the flying White House, and a trailer of what looks like another quality production from them can be found here.

In researching this post however, I ran across something I had not known before...that the current fleet of two Boeing 747-200s are ending their service life and must be replaced soon. One of the two -47s was placed into service in 1987, and the other in 1990. As one might expect, the challenge of replacing such a complex and HEAVILY modified jet fleet will be to find the right contractor that can deliver the goods.

To that end, the FedbizOpps.gov website that announces Federal business opportunities recently issued a USAF Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) Program request to obtain "market research to identify potential sources that possess the expertise, capabilities, and experience to meet the requirements of the next generation Presidential fixed-wing aircraft." The request was posted 1 January, 2009, and the response date was 28 January, 2009. That does not leave a very big window for companies to put together the mountain of paperwork the Feds are requiring to even be considered to have a shot at building Air Force One: The Next Generation.

A look at the actual PAR is here and contains these specifics:
"The PAR aircraft will be a new-build, commercial derivative, wide-body aircraft, uniquely modified to meet the current and projected requirements for the worldwide transportation of the Office of the President. Modifications regarding passenger communications, information systems, interior work & rest environment, and aerial refueling must be accomplished before delivery of the aircraft. The delivery of the first operationally capable aircraft is required in FY17, with delivery of the second and third aircraft in FY19 and FY21, respectively. The PAR aircraft must maintain the highest possible mission capable rate. The PAR aircraft will provide the President of the United States, staff, and guests with safe and reliable air transportation with the appropriate level of security and communications capability. Mission communications must provide secure, interoperable command, control, and communications, using net-centric architectures."
Read between these lines, and there is really only two aircraft that fits these specs, the Airbus A380 and Boeing's 747-8. But if the current GREEN administration has a say in who gets this nod, it ought to be a no brainer when you look at this from Boeing's site:
"The 747-8 Intercontinental is the only jetliner in the 400- to 500-seat market to provide 467 seats in a three-class configuration and a 8,000-nm range. Using 787-technology engines, the airplane will be quieter, produce lower emissions, and achieve better fuel economy than any competing jetliner. The 747 Intercontinental will provide nearly equivalent trip costs and 13 percent lower seat-mile costs than the 747-400. The 747-8 is more than 10 percent lighter per seat than the A380 and will consume 11 percent less fuel per passenger than the 555-seat airplane. That translates into a trip-cost reduction of 21 percent and a seat-mile cost reduction of more than 6 percent, compared to the A380."
I have nothing against Airbus, nothing. But Air Force One is as important to our American culture as the Stature of Liberty, and it should be built by U.S. workers on U.S. soil...even if Boeing does use some foreign suppliers. This story is FAR from over, so if you agree with me on this, keep an eye out in this blog for anything I find to indicate "they" are hinting A380 for the new AF1.

Somehow, putting the Stars and Stripes on the tail of anything other than a Boeing seems Un-American.