“Cancel the order!” Donald Trump, the incoming president of the United States, tweeted ominously about a contract with Boeing to build Air Force One, the state-of-the-art airplanes he and future presidents rely on.
It took a matter of hours for Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg to get on the phone with the president-elect and smooth things over.
On Wednesday, two weeks after the kerfuffle, he made his way south to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate to meet face to face.
Trump had slapped a $4 billion price tag on the program to build two more of the next generation of planes and he had pronounced it a waste.
Analysts said that while the Air Force had budgeted $2.7 billion for the Air Force One program, the costs would likely grow to about $4 billion after the planes were actually manufactured. The planes are expected to be operational by the mid-2020s.
The tweet shook the political and defense contracting worlds, as Trump challenged the aviation giant and threatened to pull a contract responsible for hundreds of American jobs.
But after his meeting with Trump on Wednesday, Muilenburg faced the media, hat in hand, so to speak.
“We’re all focused on the same thing here, we’re going to make sure that we give our warfighters the best capability in the world and that we do it in a way that is affordable for our taxpayers,” Muilenburg said. “And his business head set around that is excellent. It was a terrific conversation. Got a lot of respect for him. He’s a good man. And he’s doing the right thing.
As for that $4 billion price tag, Muilenburg promised taxpayers would get a break – though by the time the contract is finished and the planes are flying, Trump is not likely to be still in office.
“We’re going to get it done for less than that, and we’re committed to working together to make sure that happens,” he said. “And I was able to give the president-elect my personal commitment on behalf of the Boeing Company.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Abby Phillip