The Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental to Replace Air Force One
January 29, 2015 4:08 PM   Subscribe

The United States Air Force (USAF) announces the long-awaited decision of what aircraft will serve as the replacement for the presidential transport, known as Air Force One (when the President is on-board). The aircraft is still years away from being fully designed and certified; it doesn’t even have a USAF designation yet (like VC-25A, for it’s predecessor). The aircraft will be heavily modified to fulfill the requirements of not only the Air Force but also the U.S. Secret Service.
posted by Short Attention Sp (42 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
The USAF said, deadpan, that the 747-800 won in a competition with the Airbus A380.

No mention of what will happen to the old ones. Make a good museum piece, or perhaps a swanky restaurant, but they'll have to remove a few bits and pieces first.
posted by Devonian at 4:24 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


The USAF said, deadpan, that the 747-800 won in a competition with the Airbus A380

I'm pretty sure there was no way in hell this wouldn't be awarded to an American company. Doesn't the Pentagon have rules about USA-only sourcing?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:29 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


oh and former Presidential planes on display, here.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:30 PM on January 29, 2015


Doesn't the Pentagon have rules about USA-only sourcing?

They're fairly easy to get around (subcontractors, wholly owned subsidiaries, etc.).
posted by Etrigan at 4:35 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's a link in the article to the replacement for the in air refueling tanker. It took 11 years from the invitation to tender until the order was signed, including a legal challenge from Boeing when Airbus won it initially, with a design that was already in production.
posted by ambrosen at 4:42 PM on January 29, 2015


The USAF said, deadpan, that the 747-800 won in a competition with the Airbus A380

No need for the stoicism. Globalism reins here. Most of a 787, for instance, is made from parts sourced overseas (cite). Manufacturing is done in the US, for now — despite record profits, Boeing recently beat a labor union into the ground to get concessions. US engineering, manufacturing and labor are not the priorities for this decision, even though it might look like that from the branding.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 4:47 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


requirements of not only the Air Force but also the U.S. Secret Service.

open bar and in-flight brothel?
posted by Auden at 4:48 PM on January 29, 2015 [29 favorites]


Most of a 787 is made from parts sourced overseas

Yes, but this is not a 787, it is a 747-8. Is the -8 similarly sourced? Because my recollection is that the 787 sourcing was such a big deal because it was the first model where Boeing did that.
posted by indubitable at 4:51 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe with the extra room they'll be able to fit in that escape capsule in case terrorists try to take over the plane or shoot it down over Finland.
posted by ckape at 4:58 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


Most of a 787 is made from parts sourced overseas

You changed the phrase in the article from "over 30%" to "most".

The link inside the link says that 5% of the 747 is foreign-made. It is unclear what exactly is being counted here though (number of parts with serial numbers, dollar value of components, etc.)
posted by kiltedtaco at 4:59 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, they outsourced a lot of the 787 parts and it hasn't gone very well. Turns out that a bunch of subcontractors building things elsewhere--combined with untrained workers--can go awry. Who could have foreseen such a thing?
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 5:00 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


It took 11 years from the invitation to tender until the order was signed, including a legal challenge from Boeing when Airbus won it initially, with a design that was already in production.

That doesn't even begin to describe the asshattery that happened with that bid -- and it's *still not over*.

But then again, both this contract and the tanker contract pale in comparison to the F-35 contract. Oy.
posted by eriko at 5:02 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Kinda wish they'd pick a 777 because pretty, but on the other hand "Engines Turn Or President Swims" is such a good bacronymization from ETOPS.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:04 PM on January 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


Yeah, but Airbus also divvied up the construction of the A380, possibly even moreso than Boeing did for the 787, and certainly more than the 747-8.

In many ways, the 747-8 is a good choice. It's a modern evolution of a very mature airframe.
posted by schmod at 5:05 PM on January 29, 2015


I've also heard that the procurement process has been speeded up to make sure the 748 is delivered before Boeing stops making the thing, It seems to be in a race with the A380 for that fate though, which would leave no four-engined widebodies on the market - and I think the spec for AF1 most definitely includes all four. But I agree that the 777 would be more sensible.
posted by Devonian at 5:14 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


but on the other hand "Engines Turn Or President Swims" is such a good bacronymization from ETOPS.

For the record, we all fly on "Engines Turns or Passengers Swim."
posted by eriko at 5:18 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've actually done some (very, very) minor work on the existing airframe. I believe when the president isn't using them (there are two, if I remember) they're used as command and control centers for things like disaster recovery. There's a significant amount of communications and other C3 equipment that can be used by agencies like FEMA for coordinating major disaster operations. I wouldn't be surprised if the existing planes are transferred to another agency for that kind of use.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:25 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


No mention of what will happen to the old ones.

Thoroughly bugged and then shipped to China.
posted by XMLicious at 5:26 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


It will need a Moon door.
posted by clavdivs at 5:35 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Engines Turns or Passengers Swim."

For those wondering. For many, many years, the rule on twin engined jets is they had to remain within one hour, of flight time on a single engine, of an airport capable of landing the plane. Why? Because in the early days of jet aviation, and let's be honest, in all the days of non-jet aviation, engine failures were very, very common. Twinjets, having *only* two engines, were suspect.

As time passed and technology improved, engines improved. So much so that we (we=FAA in the US) came up with the ETOPS rules. ETOPS stands for Engines Turn Or Passengers Swim Extended Twinjet OPErations. The original standard, now called ETOPS-90, was that a twinjet could be 90 minutes from a suitable runway, while flying on one engine. As more time passed, ETOPS was extended to 120, then 150, and now 180 minutes. The 777, during flight test, famously had a policy on long distance flights of shutting down an engine to prove that one engine could fly the plane for extended time, culminating in a six hour flight flown entirely on one engine.

ETOPS-210 is being talked about now, and would allow a twinjet to fly any route that is currently flown. Twinjets like the 777-200LR* are already capable of this, the only thing stopping them are regulations.


* The 777-200LR is the ultra-long range version of the 777. When Boeing built the first one, they delivered it to the launch airline, Cathy Pacific. CX is based in Hong Kong, so that's where they flew the plane.

But, to prove the point, they flew it on the Great Circle Route *the wrong way.* They took off from Boeing's plant in Seattle, and 22 hours later, they landed at Hong Kong, having overflown the continental US, Atlantic Ocean, Spain, Africa, the Indian Ocean, India, and China.

Both Boeing and Airbus are *very* much for ETOPS-210, and these engines work. More importantly, these planes can fly thousands of miles on one engine.

Oh, and if they stripped most of the cabin, the 777-200LR could do a nonstop circumnavigation of the world, and in far more comfortable conditions than the Rutan built Voyager did.
posted by eriko at 5:37 PM on January 29, 2015 [28 favorites]


USA-only sourcing?

Oh, is Boeing going to make this plane entirely in the USA with no China-fabricated parts?
posted by spitbull at 6:00 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


This makes me so mad. The government has been working on a new Marine One helicopter -- like Air Force One based on a preexisting commercial design -- and after 12 years and over $5 billion, it still doesn't even fly.

At that rate modifying the 747 into Air Force One will take 30 years and cost a trillion dollars.

The president should just get a Gulfstream. Or a nice bus.
posted by miyabo at 6:15 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bus Force One!
posted by XMLicious at 6:19 PM on January 29, 2015 [11 favorites]


Because my recollection is that the 787 sourcing was such a big deal because it was the first model where Boeing did that.

I was at a meeting recently where a Boeing exec touted the new 777 as being all US made and Seattle/Everett assembled.

I wanted to ask him if this was due to lessons learned with the 787 manufacturing process.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:32 PM on January 29, 2015


I'd like to know how fast and loose ETOPS is getting because now we're getting airlines like United that can take the 757-200s they inherited from Continental and fly them across the Atlantic.

It's a great plan when flying east, but going west the planes tend to run out of fuel if the jetstream is too fast. Whoever owns the jet fuel pumps in Goose Bay, Canada did a killer business in 2014.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:45 PM on January 29, 2015


If you get the chance, hear the former Airforce 1 pilot speak. He's amusing, and pulls no punches about the plane's capabilities. Or its famed ability to destroy runways on takeoff …
posted by scruss at 7:04 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would be shocked by this, but then I remember that the USAF has giant warehouses of 747 parts.

Giant.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
posted by Sphinx at 8:31 PM on January 29, 2015


So am I right in thinking that the horrendously long approval, design and build timelines for even the simplest military equipment (even those featuring a commercially available template) are now just baked into all defense procurement thanks to the MIC?
posted by dry white toast at 8:52 PM on January 29, 2015


Isn't Air Force One a callsign? So if he was on a single-prop Cessna, that would be Air Force One for the duration?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:34 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh, and if they stripped most of the cabin, the 777-200LR could do a nonstop circumnavigation of the world, and in far more comfortable conditions than the Rutan built Voyager did.
Do you have a source for this? The round-the-world flights made by Voyager and then Global Flyer were 26,366 miles and 25,766 miles respectively. The 777-200LR has a stated range of 17,395 km (10,809 miles) at maximum payload. The aircraft would have to fly almost 2.4 times further before it had flown round the world. The 202,570 L of fuel it carries weighs approximately 168,538 kg. Even with extra fuel tanks, given that the maximum takeoff weight is just over 200,000 kg more than the empty weight, you could only carry an additional 33,800 kg of fuel with you (~20%). There's no need to make a commercial aircraft which has a range of more than half the circumference of the globe, and so they don't.
ETOPS-210 is being talked about now, and would allow a twinjet to fly any route that is currently flown. Twinjets like the 777-200LR* are already capable of this, the only thing stopping them are regulations.
The Airbus A350 XWB is already certified for 370 minute ETOPS. In fact the A330 was approved for 240 minute certification in 2009, the 787 is approved for 330 minutes and the 777 is also certified for 330 minutes.
posted by leo_r at 3:59 AM on January 30, 2015


It's a great plan when flying east, but going west the planes tend to run out of fuel if the jetstream is too fast. Whoever owns the jet fuel pumps in Goose Bay, Canada did a killer business in 2014.

The 757 is not the smallest plane flying cross-Atlantic routes. That would be the Airbus A318, which British Airways flies between London City and New York-JFK. It does make fuel stop in Ireland when westward bound, but as I understand that's because the runway at London City is too short to take off with a full load of fuel.
posted by hrwj at 4:01 AM on January 30, 2015


Isn't Air Force One a callsign? So if he was on a single-prop Cessna, that would be Air Force One for the duration?

If it were an Air Force Cessna, yes. Otherwise it's [Service] One or Civilian One.
posted by Etrigan at 4:52 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you get the chance, hear the former Airforce 1 pilot speak. He's amusing, and pulls no punches about the plane's capabilities

Col. Mark Tillman (ret)?
posted by DreamerFi at 6:26 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


So if he was on a single-prop Cessna, that would be Air Force One for the duration?

King Air Force One
posted by backseatpilot at 6:40 AM on January 30, 2015


backseatpilot, you are probably thinking of the E-4s. I wonder why they are retiring this after only 30 years. The E-4s have been running a lot longer, and the B-52 - well, those airframes are older than pretty much all of the crew.
posted by scolbath at 7:22 AM on January 30, 2015


It's a great plan when flying east, but going west the planes tend to run out of fuel if the jetstream is too fast. Whoever owns the jet fuel pumps in Goose Bay, Canada did a killer business in 2014.

The reason the North Atlantic routes became so popular is that there's fuel available along something close to a great circle route between the US and Europe, with Gander and St. Johns in Canada, Kangerlussuaq in Greenland, and Reykjavik in Iceland along the way.


Do you have a source for this?

Boeing engineers told me this. Note that this would involve stripping out pretty much everything in the plane that isn't fuel or cockpit, having all the fuel tanks in place, and flying a minimum-burn fuel profile.

You're absolutely correct that once you can fly halfway around the world (plus 45 minutes reserve, of course) extra range is useless to an airliner.

In fact the A330 was approved for 240 minute certification in 2009, the 787 is approved for 330 minutes and the 777 is also certified for 330 minutes.

Well, I'm behind the times. ETOPS-210 was the holy grail for so long.... Thanks for the correction.
posted by eriko at 7:22 AM on January 30, 2015


Isn't Air Force One a callsign? So if he was on a single-prop Cessna, that would be Air Force One for the duration?

If it were an Air Force Cessna, yes. Otherwise it's [Service] One or Civilian One.


Executive One

Nixon flew commercial once, as a show of saving fuel. It did not actually save any fuel, of course, because he only flew commercial one way, and the Secret Service insisted on having SAM 27000 shadow Executive One on the outbound flight.
posted by ckape at 8:14 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I know that statistically speaking, flying ETOPS is very very safe. Not only does the aircraft/engine combo have to be certified, so does the individual airline and their maintenance procedures. That said, there's something that gives me the heebie jeebies about being 2 or 3 hours from anywhere flying on a single engine, much less the over 5 hours now allowed. One engine dies and you're stuck on the plane over 5 more hours? There's something about that that gets me way down deep, and I have zero fear of flying otherwise. I've spent many an hour on a single engine turboprop with no qualms. To be fair, that thing had a fantastic glide ratio...

Of course, many 4 engined planes can barely keep flying on 3, so in some ways I'd rather fly a twin. Especially the grossly overpowered 757.
posted by wierdo at 8:53 AM on January 30, 2015


fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit: Yeah, they outsourced a lot of the 787 parts and it hasn't gone very well. Turns out that a bunch of subcontractors building things elsewhere--combined with untrained workers--can go awry. Who could have foreseen such a thing?
If you think that buying American would have fixed this, you wildly underestimate the complexity and demands of the task.

Just like the Affordable Care Act website, this thing is too damn big to go right. The odds of a perfect roll-out decrease with complexity. And space flight relies on computer tech so old you can buy the processors by the pound.

So, yes, there are delays, because schedule and budget estimates are only estimates; on projects like this, multiple bottleneck issues are fairly guaranteed to destroy schedules, as well as generating unexpected cost overruns. Sucks, but estimators are neither perfect nor clairvoyant, and almost nothing ever "slides left" or costs less by accident.

Putting a Made In America sticker on the parts doesn't change any of that. To the contrary, Caterpillar - the maker of some of the most reliable construction and mining equipment on Earth - builds every damn vehicle with parts from multiple countries.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:34 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


miyabo: The president should just get a Gulfstream. Or a nice bus.
Imagine the outrage if Obama tried to sit up front.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:38 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks, DreamerFi; Mark Tillman it was indeed.
posted by scruss at 11:29 AM on January 30, 2015


Of course, many 4 engined planes can barely keep flying on 3

There was this British Airways flight that went from LAX to Heathrow on three engines. Well... almost the whole way, anyway.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:01 PM on January 30, 2015


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