President-elect Donald Trump blasted Boeing on Tuesday for alleged cost overruns on a new fleet of Air Force One planes and called for the government to cancel the contract, saying the project price tag is "out of control."
The president-elect took aim at Boeing's Air Force One work in a Tuesday morning tweet, and reiterated his concerns to reporters minutes later at Trump Tower.
The government has contracted with Boeing to build two or more new 747 planes, which would replace the current aging Reagan-era aircraft and go into service around 2024. That means Trump wouldn't fly on the new planes, which carry U.S. presidents around the globe, unless he pursued and won a second term. But the Air Force has pressed for a faster schedule, saying the current planes are becoming too expensive to repair and keep in good flying shape.
The contract for the planes was projected at about $3 billion, but costs have been reported to be rising. The Air Force had previously earmarked $1.65 billion for two new jets, but hadn’t detailed costs beyond that. Boeing was the sole builder to bid on the planes, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“The plane is totally out of control,” Trump told reporters later Tuesday inside Trump Tower. “It’s going to be over $4 billion for Air Force One program and I think it’s ridiculous. I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.”
In a statement Tuesday, Boeing downplayed any payments it’s received, seemingly citing a January contract worth about $26 million and a July contract worth about $127 million as its only commitments on the Air Force One project.
“We are currently under contract for $170 million to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serve the unique requirements of the President of the United States,” the aircraft giant said. “We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force on subsequent phases of the program allowing us to deliver the best planes for the President at the best value for the American taxpayer.”
Tuesday was not Trump’s first interaction with Boeing. Trump tweeted in January 2013 that he had bought stock in the corporation and called it a “Great company!” Trump’s personal aircraft, often called “Trump Force One,” is a Boeing 757.
Trump’s personal financial disclosure, filed in May, shows $50,000-$100,000 worth of stock in Boeing, though spokesman Jason Miller told reporters on a Tuesday conference call that Trump sold all of his stocks in June.
Miller said the details of any cancellation would be handled once Trump was inaugurated but the Tuesday tweet “really speaks to the president-elect’s focus on keeping costs down across the board.”
Trump may have some precedent if he ultimately decides to nix the Boeing deal. President Obama in 2009 canceled the program to replace Marine One when the cost of the 28-helicopter fleet ballooned from $6.1 billion to $13 billion.
Trump recently appointed ex-Boeing chairman, president and CEO Jim McNerney to chair a board of executive advisers on economic, regulatory and labor matters. McNerney retired as Boeing chair in March 2016.
But haggling over the bill may be about more than money.
In September, Boeing said China was set to buy $1 trillion worth of its planes during the next 20 years. China would become “the first trillion dollar aviation market” after Boeing delivered nearly 7,000 planes, the company said in a statement at the time.
Trump has been a frequent critic of China. The president-elect accepted a controversial call from the Taiwanese government last week, possibly jeopardizing longstanding U.S. policy towards China. On Sunday, he also tweeted extensively about companies that sought to leave the U.S., and singled out China for “making it hard for our companies to compete.”
The double-decker 747-8 is the only four-engine commercial jet made by Boeing, Reuters reported. It entered service in 1970 and underwent an overhaul in 2012.
Fox News' Doug McKelway and John Roberts and The Associated Press contributed to this report.