The Air Force One jet carrying the president on trips in Davos, East Asia and the Middle East needs new refrigerators. Boeing was awarded almost $24 million to supply two new ones.
The Defense Department sent out a notice in late December explaining that Boeing “has been awarded a $23,657,671 contract for engineering support services for VC-25A G12/G13 chillers, including prototype design, manufacture/procurement, installation, and the testing of one prototype.”
VC-25A refers to the military designation of the Boeing 747 aircraft that is Air Force One, and the president’s plane has a whole bunch of extras that commercial passengers would not experience on a flight from San Francisco to Honolulu. The presidential 747, also known as the “flying Oval Office,” has special sleeping quarters for the president and the first lady, a dual-purpose conference and dining room, an office space that can be converted into a makeshift medical facility and state-of-the-art electronic, communication and navigation systems.
For US travelers, though, the last chance to experience a 747 flight passed when Delta Air Lines and United Airlines retired the “Queen of the skies” at the end of last year.
The eye-popping cool $24 million was picked up by Defense One on Wednesday. A defense consultant told the news outlet that the eight-figure price was a product of the White House and Air Force’s incredibly specific requirements for the work. “It’s not a contractor issue, it’s a requirements issue,” Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group told Defense One, adding, “It’s not people getting rich.”
A spokesman for the US Air Force said the planes’ existing refrigerators have been failing at an increasing rate, “especially in hot/humid environments,” adding, “the units are unable to effectively support mission requirements for food storage.”
Another factor in the cost is Air Force One’s required ability to be able to fly continuously for weeks without landing, meaning that the plane must keep enough food on hand for roughly 3,000 meals.
US President Donald Trump called costs for Air Force One “out of control” and threatened to “cancel order” for the future Air Force One in December 2016. In August, the US Air Force revealed that the two 747-8s to make up the future Air Force One retinue would come from defunct Russian airline Transaero, which went under two years after having ordered the aircraft from Boeing.