The flight manual for new Air Force One cost $84 million
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Airplanes, like cars, have user manuals. That includes the Boeing VC-25B, also known as the future Air Force One. That is not news.
What is unusual is that the manuals for the future U.S. presidential jet are going to cost taxpayers $84 million. You read that right.
The Drive reported that Boeing was just awarded an $84 million by the U.S. Air Force to “modify commercial manuals, update with VC-25B-specific information and deliver integrated manuals for the VC-25B system.” That’s a slightly convoluted way of saying that Boeing and its subcontrators will take the existing manuals for the Boeing 747-8, and adapt them for its military version, the VC-25B.
A report from the Pentagon last year pegged the total cost of the VC-25B program at $5.2 billion for the two aircraft, including all the associated expenses. It’s not clear whether that includes those manuals. The figures are staggering, especially compared with the price of a 747-8 off the Boeing assembly line: according to the company’s list prices, two 747-8s would cost $836.8 million And the VC-25Bs weren’t even bought new: they were built for a Russian airline that went bankrupt, never delivered, and stored in the desert until the USAF picked them up to make into the new presidential transport.
The cost had been announced as $3.9 billion in 2018, but expenditures for all military programs have a tendency to balloon. These aren’t off-the-shelf 747s, either. Just like the current two Air Force Ones, 30-year old airplanes derived from an earlier model of the Boeing double-decker and called VC-25A, they must be modified extensively before they are delivered in 2024.
The VC-25Bs are undergoing serious modifications and will be outfitted with the most advanced defense countermeasures, among other things, making them unique compared to their commercial cousins — hence, the need for those new manuals. Government Executive said, “The technical manuals will include more than 100,000 pages with the specifications for flying the plane as well as fixing it, according to people familiar with the high-profile project.” (That’s $840 a page.) According to the contract notice, the manuals are expected to be complete by Jan. 15, 2025.
Sign up for our daily newsletter for the latest news.
Another factor that makes these manuals so pricey is the fact that some parts will be secret, so they have to be developed and printed under secure conditions. Military-system documentation tends to run on the pricier end. For instance, The Drive reminded us that the structural repair manuals for the Boeing P-8 Poseidon, a maritime-patrol jet derived from the 737, cost the Navy $30 million back in 2014.
Boeing has a PDF version online of one of the 747-8 manuals. At 126 pages, it’s a slightly more manageable read than the 100,000-page behemoth the Air Force will have to deal with — and unlike the VC-25B’s manuals, it’s free to download.
Additional reporting by Alberto Riva.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees