Production of the newest Air Force One, ordered by former President Donald Trump, has been significantly delayed due to manufacturer issues at a Boeing Co. factory, people familiar with the matter said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
One of the incidents that contributed to the production delays came after multiple empty mini-bottles of tequila were discovered on one of two aircraft in production at Boeing’s San Antonio, Texas, facility.
Sources said delays also occurred after an incident where crewmembers were attempting to place one of the aircraft onto jacks, but the plane’s weight exceeded what the jacks could hold, prompting concerns that the aircraft was damaged.
The U.S. Air Force said the jet was not damaged in the jacking incident. It was later revealed that a Boeing employee working on the aircraft did not have the proper credentials, crews failed to follow established procedures and one staff member failed a post-incident drug test, people familiar with the situation said.
The jets in question are highly classified and heavily modified 747-8 Boeing aircraft known as VC-25B military variants. Attorney’s for the aircraft manufacturer described the jets as “effectively an airborne seat of government” which are given the “highest national priority.”
A spokeswoman for the Air Force said the Pentagon formally requested that Boeing make significant improvements to its operations due to “documentation, procedural, and training shortfalls.”
“The situation was corrected and actions taken to prevent reoccurrence,” the Air Force spokeswoman said.
A Boeing representative decline to comment on the staff-related issue, but said, “We hold ourselves accountable to ensure we meet stringent quality-control requirements on all of our programs.”
In 2018, Mr. Trump and Boeing agreed to a $3.9 billion deal for the company to provide two new Air Force One planes.
“President Trump has reached an informal deal with Boeing on a fixed price contract for the new Air Force One Program. Thanks to the President’s negotiations, the contract will save the taxpayers more than $1.4 billion,” then-Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told Fox News.
The deal reportedly saves taxpayers $1.4 billion, as estimates for two new Air Force One planes and subsequent costs came in at more $5 billion.
Boeing told the Department of Defense that delivery of the new aircraft could be delayed as much as 17 months, sources said, but an Air Force spokeswoman said the service anticipates the jets will be a full two years late.
Last month, the head of Boeing’s $26 billion defense and space business announced his retirement after nearly 35 years with the company.