The aircraft is one of two widebody 747s being modified to meet the safe transportation needs of the US president and his staff. While not a large part of Boeing’s business, it is a large-scale “halo” project that is important in strengthening the company’s reputation. So any concerns about the president’s future jet are about the last thing Boeing needs.
The tequila bottle investigation was reported by the Wall Street Journal on Monday. The aircraft is being modified at Boeing’s San Antonio facilities, and alcohol is banned at all Boeing factories.
Boeing neither confirmed nor denied the report, saying simply: “This is a personnel issue and for contractual reasons we are unable to comment further.”
“Boeing has informed the Air Force of a personnel issue related to the VC-25B program,” said Ann Stefanik, chief of media operations for the US Air Force. This is the name Boeing uses for the construction project because the Air Force One designation is given to an aircraft only when the president is on board.
“There is no impact on the ongoing modification efforts of the two aircraft,” added Stefanik. “The Air Force … closely monitors the quality of production and holds Boeing responsible for ensuring that the VC-25B program meets stringent quality control requirements.”
Recent history of quality issues
That wouldn’t be good news for Boeing at any point, but it’s particularly bad now.
The aircraft manufacturer’s reputation for quality has been badly damaged by a number of issues in recent years, most notably the 737 Max, which was grounded for 20 months after two fatal crashes that left 346 people dead. The problems with the Max have cost the company more than $ 20 billion.
And in March 2019, just days after the second 737 Max crash, the Air Force’s senior procurement official said Boeing was in a “serious situation” with faulty inspections of the tanker plane it was carrying. built for the Air Force when garbage and tools were found in some planes. after their delivery.
Eleven months later, Boeing revealed that it found similar debris in the fuel tanks of several 737 Max jets that were in storage during the grounding. A few months later, The New York Times reported additional quality issues at a Boeing plant in South Carolina that builds the 787 Dreamliner widebody jet.
Boeing denied there was a problem at the South Carolina plant. But later in 2020, the company was forced to recommend temporarily grounding some of the 787s to inspect and repair fuselage parts. And in July of this year, it was forced to halt deliveries of the aircraft again due to additional concerns over quality control issues.
Meanwhile, the reported tequila bottle probe isn’t the first issue with Boeing’s Air Force One project.
The planes were originally scheduled for delivery in 2024, but earlier this year Boeing revealed it was looking to delay delivery by about a year and would likely seek more money as a result. Boeing cited both the delays related to the pandemic and its dismissal of a now bankrupt subcontractor who had done much of the interior work on the jets.
– CNN’s Ellie Kaufman contributed to this report.