“Airplane Air, I would call a very unique moment, a very unique negotiation. A unique set of risks that Boeing may not have had to take,” said CEO David Calhoun. “But we are what we are.”
Boeing sealed the deal in 2018 after Trump publicly criticized the costs of the program, writing “Cancel it!” And amid Trump’s hard-line rhetoric on China, he has risked consequences for Boeing and other US exporters.
Earlier this month, the Air Force attributed the delay to “a combination of factors including impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic, internal supplier relocation, workforce limitations, wiring design schedules, and test execution rates.” Boeing declined at the time to comment on the delay.
Calhoun said the coronavirus pandemic has complicated work because only a limited number of workers have the high-level security clearances needed to work on the project.
“When the Covid streak goes down or a group of workers leaves, we don’t have a whole group of disinfected people to get into their shoes,” he said.
“For the VC-25B where the clearances are so high, it’s really tough,” he continued, using the military model number to describe the aircraft.
Other factors have complicated the relationship between Trump and Boeing. The company faced commercial pressure from his harsh criticism of China. After two fatal crashes, the president personally announced the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max — an issue that the Federal Aviation Administration usually deals with. His acting secretary of defense, who eventually withdrew from consideration of the permanent job after allegations of domestic violence surfaced, was a former Boeing executive.