New Air Force One; Boeing layoffs

Flight International reports that the Air Force issued a Request for Information (RFI) for a new Air Force One to replace the Boeing 747-200 that will be 27 years old when it’s replaced.

The USAF previously said that it is interested in a new Air Force One, and Airbus had provided information about its A380.

Boeing is determined to keep the exclusivity it’s had for the airplane since providing the very first jet AF One, a Boeing 707-120, to President Eisenhower. Later model 707s were provided up until the 747-200 entered service for President George HW Bush.

Boeing will likely offer the 747-8I, but according to Flight, the Boeing 777, the Airbus A330 and the A340 might qualify. We’d have to think that the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 could also qualify, setting aside service entry dates, but the Secret Service is quite conservative and may not be ready to accept the new composite technology for the Commander-in-Chief. Even though the twin engine Boeing 767 had been in service for years, the Service wanted a four-engine 747 for safety when replacing the 707.

This has the potential to be another controverisal Airbus vs. Boeing competition. Although we’re only talking about two airplanes vs 179 in the KC-X tanker competition, and even though a European company won the contract to supply the next generation of White House Marine helicopters, the status symbol of flying the President of the United States around is beyond compare. Air Force One represents the United States.

Our view that the Northrop/Airbus KC-30 is better than Boeing’s KC-767 for the Air Force tanker is well known. Airbus and Boeing can debate all day long about which airplane is better, the A380 or the 747-8. Both airplanes are good, sound aircraft. In this case, as an American, we come down firmly on Boeing’s side: Airbus could pay the government to make the A380 Air Force One, but we think the president ought to fly an American aircraft and Air Force One ought to be Boeing. Airbus shouldn’t even waste its time on this one.

So there.

Layoffs at Boeing

Boeing confirmed layoffs hinted at some weeks ago in this press release. The company will lay off 4,500 of its nearly 75,000 workers.

The move is prudent, given the global economic conditions and deteriorating airline market. But SPEEA, still in contract negotiations for its Wichita (KS) unit, doesn’t think so; see SPEEA’s statement after the jump:

Layoffs show Boeing management is disconnected, according to SPEEA

SEATTLE – The Boeing Company’s decision to lay off employees with key programs behind schedule is another indication corporate leaders are disconnected from the reality of the workplace, according to the union representing engineers and technical workers.

“These announced layoffs are puzzling,” said Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001. “With the company struggling to overcome problems from its failed outsourcing business model, these types of prophylactic layoffs seem counterproductive.”

It was just Dec. 10, when the Boeing Board of Directors increased the quarterly stock dividend 14 percent. The company press release announcing the increase quoted Boeing Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Jim McNerney: “This dividend increase reflects our strong financial performance, record backlog and significant liquidity.”

“We wonder what has changed since Dec. 10,” said Goforth. “The company doesn’t have any financial reason for layoffs.”

Today’s announcement comes as more than 23 percent of union engineers are working 12 or more hours of overtime each week to get the 787 and 747-8 programs complete. The 787 is now nearly two years behind schedule. Boeing outsourced unprecedented amounts of each program as well as relying on contract labor.

It is unclear how many, if any, of the 4,500 layoffs announced for Boeing Commercial Airplanes in 2009 will impact employees represented by SPEEA. Union contracts require all contractor labor to be released before SPEEA-represented employees are laid off. The most recent numbers show more than 2,560 contractors are working jobs that could be performed by SPEEA members.

“Unlike previous layoffs where Boeing was responding to downturns in aerospace, these layoffs have no clear business rationale,” said Goforth. “The company should staff up to fix the self-inflicted wounds of its outsourcing model, not lay off employees to prop up the stock price.”

On Tuesday (Jan. 13), SPEEA returns to contract negotiations with Boeing for 700 represented engineers at Wichita Integrated Defense Systems (IDS). Before Boeing abandoned negotiations before the holidays, company negotiators proposed salary increases in only the first year of a four-year contract. Union leaders called the offer completely disrespectful for the engineers who work on key programs for Boeing IDS. In December, 20,740 SPEEA members at Boeing in Puget Sound bargaining units agreed to contracts that included wage improvements of 20 percent over five years.

A local of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), SPEEA represents more than 24,500 aerospace professionals at Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kan., Triumph Composite Systems, Inc., in Spokane, Wash., and at BAE Systems, Inc., in Irving, Texas.

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6 Comments on “New Air Force One; Boeing layoffs

  1. “Although we’re only talking about two airplanes vs 179 in the KC-X tanker competition”

    You’re off by 50% We’re talking about THREE new airplanes to replace two VC-25s.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments on why Airbus shouldn’t even bother offering an aircraft for Air Force One’s replacement. AF1 represents the power and prestige of the United States of America to both friend and foe alike. Industrial base, economic concerns, while considerations are transcended. It is precisely those same sentiments that you have eloquently stated that many of us have concerning the pending KC-X competition and why the USAF should pick the KC-767 over the European KC-30. As a former Officer in the Air Force, in it well known that the service also represents our country abroad, as does the aircraft it operates.
    While industrial base, economic, political concerns are valid and should be considered, those same arguments you’ve made against any considerations of foreign built alternatives to Boeing aircraft for the current VC-25 fleet, are just as valid for the KC-X program, in my view, especially considering how close the competition was between the competing designs.

  3. Scott,

    Please change line reading “As a former Officer in the Air Force, in it well known that the service also represents our country abroad, as does the aircraft it operates.” to “As a former Officer in the Air Force, it is well known that the service also represents our country abroad, as does the aircraft it operates.”

    Sorry about the grammatical error. Happy New Year!


  4. Nobody seems to have noticed that the Air Force wants to replace the two VC-25s — tail numbers 28000 and 29000 — with 3 new airframes.

    The question is, then, why are three new airframes — presumably with tail numbers 30000, 31000 and 32000 — required for Air Force One duty post 2017?

    Since the 4 E-4Bs will be retired in the next few years, and may only partly be replaced by two Boeing C-32’s upgraded to provide broadcasting capabilities for the president in the event of nuclear war or a national emergency, the sophisticated command and control capabilities of the current E-4B fleet seem not no be replicated although several E-8’s may be upgraded to similar command capabilities.

    Maybe, just maybe, the Air Force wants to combine the capabilities of the four E-4Bs and the two VC-25s in three new 2017 state-of-the-art airframes.

    Interestingly, a stretched A380-900 will have more than 90 percent cabin area than the specially configured 747-200s which the E-4B and VC-25 are based on. Therefore, three A380-900 will comfortably replace all six E-4Bs and VC-25s.

    On a further note, would a new Air Force One in 2017 based on a then 50 year old 747 design really represent the “best” of America, or will it rather symbolise the sad economic decline of contemporary 2017 America where popular economic nationalism and introspective xenophobia are flourishing?

    When the U.S. Air Force Boeing VC-137C — with tail number 26000 — entered into service in 1962 as the first real Air Force One, it was based on an aircraft which represented the very best a proud and outward-looking America had to offer the world in jet aircraft technologies.

    In a similar manner, various French presidents used the Concorde partly to promote a notion of French “grandeur”. Even if the Concorde would not have been retired in 2003 and was still flying, using it today for such presidential flights would probably go down badly in the climate conscientious world of today where people are more impressed with the efficiency of the latest technologies than a product’s country of origin.

  5. “Interestingly, a stretched A380-900 will have more than 90 percent cabin area than the specially configured 747-200s which the E-4B and VC-25 are based on.”

    This paragraph should read: Interestingly, a streched A380-900 will have about 90 percent more cabin area available than the specially configured 747-200s which the E-4B and VC-25 are based on.

  6. Its gonna be a challenge for Boeing to win the AF1 contract.
    Those Airbus aircraft are damn good; they don’t brake when landing on water and on terra firma as well. They are good, but don’t stand a chance on AF1. We will beat them hands down!

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