Thursday, January 19, 2017

Boeing CEO says order near for Air Force One 747s after meeting with Trump

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the jet-maker expects to sign a deal to sell two new presidential aircraft to the U.S. government "in the very near term."

Muilenburg made his remarks to reporters following his second meeting with President-elect Donald Trump and members of his transition team. It was held at Trump Towers in New York.

Muilenburg said he and Trump discussed how Boeing could reduce the overall cost of two new 747s the U.S. Air Force wants to buy to replace the pair of 26-year-old Air Force One 747s. He described the hour-long meeting as "excellent" and "very productive."

"We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices," Muilenburg told the White House press corps. "That's going to lead to substantial cost reductions."

Trump used his Twitter account to criticize Boeing after winning the election, claiming without offering evidence that the Air Force One replacement program was costing $4 billion and was "out of control" and should be cancelled.

Experts said that wasn't true, and that current estimates had the 747 replacement program at $3.2 billion. Even the latter sum includes all kinds of sophisticated weapons and electronics equipment that other defense suppliers, not Boeing, provide and incorporate into the special presidential fleet jets.

Chicago-based Boeing has said it is currently under contract for only $170 million with the U.S. government "to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serve the unique requirements of the president."

Any 747 the Air Force buys will be manufactured at Boeing's Everett plant.

Asked by one reporter if he thought it was appropriate for Trump to negotiate complex government procurement contracts via Twitter, Muilenburg sidestepped that question while heaping praise on Trump.

"I think Mr. Trump is doing a great job of engaging with business. We're all on the same page here," Muilenburg said. "Our objective is to provide the best capability for the country. We want to generate jobs in the U.S."

"I appreciate the teamwork approach on this," he added. "It's the right way to do business."

Muilenburg said he also discussed Boeing F-18 fighter jets with Trump, but did not offer specifics.

The CEO touted Boeing's status as the country's leading exporter, one which employs tens of thousands of manufacturing workers and works with 13,000 small-and mid-size suppliers across the U.S.

"If you want manufacturing jobs, aerospace is the place to invest," Muilenburg said.

(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal)

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