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New Air Force One Deal Cleared For Takeoff

President Trump has struck a deal with the Boeing Co. to supply the next generation of Air Force One.

A White House spokesman said Trump agreed to pay $3.9 billion for two customized 747s. That's somewhat below the price tag Trump complained about before taking office.

"We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money," Trump told reporters in late 2016. He claimed the company was demanding more than $4 billion for the two jumbo jets and hinted he might cancel the order.

Boeing said in a statement Tuesday, "President Trump negotiated a good deal on behalf of the American people."

Air Force One is one of the most recognized symbols of the American presidency, a flying White House built to sustain the president and his team for an extended period. It is equipped with secure communications equipment, large galleys, in-flight refueling capability and counterterrorism features.

The new 747-8 models will be capable of flying 1,000 miles farther than the existing version, while also producing less carbon pollution.

The order for the new planes comes as commercial airlines in the U.S. have stopped flying the 747 in favor of more fuel-efficient two-engine models. Air Force specs require the redundancy of four engines for the presidential aircraft.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said the president's negotiating skill had shaved "more than $1.4 billion" off the purchase price. But that claim could not be independently verified, and at least one analyst was skeptical.

"The price has always been around $4 billion," said Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst with the Teal Group. "There's no evidence that anything has changed at all with this program. Happy Air Force One Theater Day!"

Boeing said the delivery date for the new planes will depend on how much testing the Air Force wants to do. Before Trump took office, the plan was to have the planes ready by 2024, when the current models will both be more than 30 years old.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.