The prestigious carrier of the President, Air Force One, which is considered as a technological marvel also faces technical glitches at times. The quarter-century old refrigerators in the mammoth plane needs to be upgraded and the price of these specially designed chillers is bone -chilling – $24 million.
In December last year, the government awarded a new contract to Boeing Company to engineer the refrigerators on the Air Force One.
The original refrigerators came with the aircraft in 1990 and according to the Air Force are no longer able to perform optimally. In a statement given by the Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said, “The units were based on the technology at the time and designed for short-term food storage. Although serviced on a regular basis, reliability has decreased with failures increasing, especially in hot/humid environments. The units are unable to effectively support mission requirements for food storage.” To minimize the shock for the taxpayers because of the huge cost involved, the Air Force also said, “the engineering required to design, manufacture, conduct environmental testing and obtain Federal Aviation Administration certification” were all included in the cost.”
The contract of $23,657,671 awarded to Boing requires it to complete the work by Oct. 30, 2019. The cost also involves testing and certification by the Federal Aviation Administration. The word related with the upgrades will be carried out in Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and few other cities.
According to the news website, Defense One, the refrigerators and freezers are below the passenger cabin and require storing 3000 meals that can feed passengers and crew for one week without resupplying.
The two galleys can provide up to 100 meals at one sitting, according to the Air Force. The new units will use available industry technology and would be capable of providing 70 cubic feet of controlled storage. This will help the crew by not having to restock it for an extended period of time.
In 2015, when Air Force announced purchase of two new Boing 747-8 planes for the presidential fleet, replacing the current plane, Donald Trump, then a presidential candidate, had criticized the price tag of $4 billion. He even suggested that his personal private aircraft is better and the Air Force One would be a step down for him. In December 2016, a month before his inauguration, he complained about the high cost in his Twitter post, “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!”
He also told reporters that the cost is “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.”
However, after his first Air Force One trip in January, 2017, the President seems to have impressed with the plane and said it is a “Beautiful, a great plane.”
The news have prompted different reactions – Richard Aboulafia, a vice president at the Teal Group consulting firm, told the defense and national security news site, “It’s not a contractor issue; it is a requirements issue, it’s not getting people rich.” Eric Schultz, a former senior adviser to Barack Obama, reacted to the news by tweeting that “we would have been impeached” if the previous administration had carried out such an upgrade to Air Force One.
Other than the refrigerators the Air Force One is also laced with an array of top-secret communication equipment for managing day-to-day tasks and any global crisis while the plane is in flight