Two empty liquor bottles were recently found onboard one of Boeing’s under-development Air Force One jets, according to people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.
The sources who spoke with the Wall Street Journal said Boeing is actively investigating why the liquor containers — two miniature tequila bottles — were left on the future presidential plane. The bottles were reportedly found at Boeing’s San Antonio, Texas facility on board a VC-25B aircraft, a highly modified version of Boeing’s 747-8 aircraft.
Boeing has encountered past problems with tools, rags and assorted trash from their factory floors ending up on both military and commercial aircraft, but this latest incident is particularly concerning as it involves one of the aircraft that will be designated as Air Force One when it carries the President of the United States on board.
Boeing’s VC-25B aircraft are a highly classified model and, in a recent court filing over a supplier dispute, the company characterized the aircraft as “effectively an airborne seat of government.” They said the aircraft’s importance ranks alongside programs like ballistic missiles and are of the “highest national priority.”
It is unclear how the liquor bottles ended up onboard the future executive transport plane or where it was found. One person familiar with the matter said alcohol isn’t allowed at any of the manufacturing facilities and the company is taking the finding very seriously.
A Boeing spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that the incident is a personnel matter and that the company is working to improve its quality and manufacturing operations.
The White House has referred the Wall Street Journal’s questions about the incident at the Boeing factory to the U.S. Air Force.
An Air Force spokeswoman reportedly told the Wall Street Journal that Boeing informed the military service about the personnel matter and that there was no effect on the ongoing aircraft modification operations. The Air Force spokeswoman said the Air Force and the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) hold “Boeing accountable to ensure the VC-25B program meets stringent quality-control requirements.”
The DCMA is tasked with overseeing Pentagon suppliers and monitoring their production quality. The DCMA told the Wall Street Journal it takes factory-debris incidents seriously and works with contractors to resolve those problems.
The liquor bottle incident comes after Boeing said, earlier this year, that the latest updates for the Air Force One fleet could be delayed by another year. The company has also signaled it may request an additional $500 million in funding for the new aircraft because of problems brought on by Covid-19 and its dispute with a supplier. The current contract to update Air Force One, signed under President Donald Trump, set aside $3.9 billion for the project.