Next Air Force One May Be Built By Airbus, Not Boeing

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Tuesday marks the swearing in of the next president. One of the issues at hand through the shift of administration is the president's main means of transportation: Air Force One.

For more than 40 years, Boeing has built Air Force One. Last week, the Air Force quietly put out requests for information to see what contractors might be interested in bidding on the next fleet of presidential planes.

Boeing and Eads, the parent company of Airbus, are the only companies capable of building such a plane.

The competition could pave the way for the next trans-Atlantic battle between Boeing and Airbus, which has some American politicians concerned.

"Given the current rules and regulations that are governed by Air Force procurement, I'm very concerned," said U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, (R) Wichita.

Congressman Tiahrt fears Eads could underbid Boeing because of subsidies it gets from European governments to build Airbus planes.

"So it's very possible unless the rules change that the next Air Force One will be manufactured in Toulouse, France instead of Seattle, Washington," Tiahrt said.

"If the Air Force looks around and decides that bigger is better, the A-380 might just be the way to go," said Richard Aboulafia.

Aboulafia also pointed out that the presidential helicopter, Marine One, is an Italian-English product.

"But to me it's very important that the leader of the free world step off of an American manufactured airplane because it's such a symbol of power and such an important aircraft," Tiahrt said.

The current collection of 747s making up the presidential fleet gets serviced in Wichita at Boeing, though Boeing never acknowledges when they are being serviced.

The Air Force wants to replace those planes starting in 2016.

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