Whether it is a negotiating ploy such as businessman Trump is famous for or he seriously intends to cancel the contract, the President-Elect’s call to cancel the order with Boeing for two new airplanes which would serve as air force one because of the enormous cost is certainly good news for tax payers of all political leanings.

Air Force One is not a specific airplane, it is the air traffic controller call sign for any airplane when The President is onboard, for example, if the Vice President is on the same airplane but The President is not onboard, then the exact same aircraft has the air traffic controller call sign Air Force Two.

The helicopters you see Presidents boarding on the White House lawn are designated Marine One and are the responsibility of the U.S. Marine Corps. If Trump flew on one of his private jets that would become Air Force One. That's not likely to happen, but the call sign for an airplane with the First Lady aboard is Executive One Foxtrot.

Calling the projected cost “ridiculous” President-Elect trump says there is no need for a massive new investment in the presidential aircraft. Trying to nip the inevitable cost overruns in the bud while the Boeing contract is only in the early stages and the only contract let so far is a preliminary planning contract budgeted at $169 million, or 10% of the planned cost of one new aircraft.

Two is the minimum and the Air Force would prefer three new airplanes.

Opposition claims

Some news outlets, in particular the Business Insider, claim Trump’s $4B cost claim for the modified 747-8 aircraft to be used as Air Force One is not true, citing a GAO (Government Accounting Office) March 2016 “Defense Acquisitions” report that it would only cost $3.21B, not $4B.

Of course that’s the original projection, cost overruns on military contracts are widespread, even expected according to many DoD and other reports such as “An Analysis of Contract Overruns and The Impacts,” Released by The Defense Technical information Center (DTIC)

Of the 65 contracts examined in the report, the average cost overruns mostly happened when the project was between 15% and 85% completed, in other words once a lot of money was spent it becomes a lot more difficult for the government to abandon a project than to agree to pay more to complete it.

Whether President-Elect Trump really intends to cancel the contract to replace the current airplanes which were ordered by President Reagan, or is just letting Boeing know that he won’t stand for overcharging, it has to be good news for the budget deficit and it can’t be said he is doing it for personal reasons since the contract doesn’t call for the new aircraft to enter service until 2024.

The case for replacement aircraft

Reports that the current Air Force One Boeing 747-200 (actually two almost identical airplanes) only have a service life of 30 years. By the time new aircraft could be delivered the current 747s would be 36 years old. The Air Force, which is responsible for maintaining and operating the aircraft says that it is becoming more and more difficult to maintain 100% reliability on the aging airplanes.

The budgeted $1.69B is actually for only a part of the eventual cost because it only runs through 2019 and the new Air Force One aircraft aren't scheduled to be completed for another 6 years after that.

(NOTE - Disclaimer: I was involved in reporting on acquisitions and cost overruns for 25 years as a columnist)