back to article Airbus A380 bows out of Air Force One competition

European Aeronautics Defence and Space (EADS), parent company of Airbus, has announced that it doesn't intend to bid for the recently-announced contract to supply new US presidential aeroplanes. Aviation Week quotes Guy Hicks, EADS North America spokesman in Washington, as saying: "After careful review, we've determined that …


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  1. Mark


    Did anyone REALLY believe that the US government wouldn't pick Boeing Anyway?

    The whole US congress is in each others pocket, and you can bet money palms were already greased sufficiently to ensure Boeing got the contract, so why should Airbus even waste their breath?

  2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    How about Obama's shoes?

    Is there a contract to supply infantry 1R and 1L?

  3. Efros


    His Segway becomes Pillock Transporter One.


  4. Steven Davison


    I beleive that the Boeing 747-200's are known as VC-25's when not carrying the President.... I may be wrong...

  5. Jonathan


    If the US President flies around in a hang glider, does that become the de facto Air Force One?

  6. Gianni Straniero
    Dead Vulture

    I subscribed so I could cancel my subscription

    Following your appearance on the Today programme this morning, I have decided The Register is far too mainstream, so I shall not be reading it anymore.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Marine One

    VH71 Kestral Manufactured by Bell Helicopter,


    US101 Manufactuered by AgustaWestland/EuropeanHelicopterIndustries

    Stop pretending its european you'll frighten em out of the deal..

    VH71A - Phase 1 = US101 Test Craft made in Europe.

    VH71B - Phase 2 = 23x VH-71 US manufactured, to compose the VIP Fleet.

  8. Martin Lyne


    A refuller the size of the double decker.. that's a lot of fuel.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    What happened to Blair Force One?

    I thought No.10 was getting one too (or No.32 Sqn RAF, if it still exists) ?

  10. Anonymous Coward


    Well they chose the Anglo-Italian AW101...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Tanker Contract

    I'm a firm believer that the tanker contract should be awarded to both Boeing and Northrup-Airbus, 50% each.

    Firstly, this will reward both sides for their efforts, keep the patriots happy, but most importantly bring breadth to the USA's logistical readiness.

    Secondly, this will show Boeing, Lockheed etc that the US government is serious about obtaining value for money for its military branches and will not just award contracts based on blind patriotism.

    As we've seen in the past, it's often the case that a specific model in the air force arsenal is temporarily grounded due to mechanical issues. This would mitigate this possibility and provide The USAF with two different types of aircraft for common and differentiated usage models.

    On the downside, twice as many spares would be required to be maintained, twice as much training and certification would be required, but as the USAF does this already for many programs, this is a minor inconvenience. Moreover, the tanker fleet is comprised of multiple models today.

  12. Peter

    "Duh" for different reason

    Folks, have a look at how many airports can handle A380.

    That was quick, because it's not many.

    Having an Air Force One that can fly to only a few airports in the U.S. and worldwide just doesn't seem like a sensible plan.

    Of course, Airbus didn't draw attention to the airport size/weight requirements in the PR piece.

    Now, A340 might be a contender and that would be the U.S. vs. Europe issue. But not A380. That was a dumb idea from the start

  13. Simon Ball
    Thumb Up

    About time, really...

    While the US certainly has the right to favour their domestic maufacturer (although how much of Boeing's products these days is American-made is certainly debateable), it doesn't have the right to consistently use Airbus as a stick in an (increasing pointless) attempt to beat Boeing's prices down. I certainly wouldn't waste my time and money participating in a complex and expensive bidding process that I haven't a hope in hell of winning.

    It seems to me that Airbus are essentially using the most visible USAF procurement programme it's possible to imagine to illustrate exactly what the costs of getting stuck with a monopoly supplier are.

  14. James Pickett


    I'd go with Airbus. At least they float.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Re: VC-25


    VC-25 is the aircraft type. It's the military designation for the 747-200, just as the KC-10 is a DC=10.

    When the president isn't aboard they are referred to by their tail numbers -- (SAM) 28000 and (SAM) 29000 -- the same as any other aircraft.

  16. Ferry Boat

    Hang on

    If Obama needs to get anywhere overseas he can just walk over the water. I bet he can fly too. If he wants to.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo


    The A380 can land on any airstrip where the 747 can land on, this was one of the design guidelines. Terminals have to modified or built to cater for the A380's size, but not the runways....

    Anyway, the A380 would be a much better alternative either way, simply because it only needs one pilot with one arm to fly it. If terrorists assassinated all flight personnel on board (bar the pilot), and amputated both of the pilot's legs and one of his arms, he could still fly the plane. That's a huge advantage. The A380 is controllable with just one functioning limb - designed so to prevent terrorism. It uses a joystick rather than a yolk, and is meant to be as easy to control as an electronic video game. The autopilot can also land the plane, so if the pilot was able to activate the autopilot before he bled to death, the A380 wouldn't need a pilot at all.

  18. Dale

    Good call

    A good call on the part of EADS. No way the contract would have gone to Airbus, so they just saved a good few million that it would have cost to mount a serious tender campaign only to "lose" in the end.

  19. Peter

    Big A380

    Maybe the runways are OK, but the taxiways are not (as well as the terminals). Air Force One seems to park away from terminals, but you can't park it on the runway!

  20. Bernard Mergendeiler

    Re: Runways

    Given that the anonymous comment was specifically limited to runways, it is correct. However, the A380 cannot operate at many airports due to two other factors:

    1. Taxiway clearance. The wingspan is such that there is not always adequate wingtip clearance between a runway and a parallel taxiway.

    2. Taxiway width. The A380's outboard engines are rather far out on the wings and they are not allowed to operate over unpaved surfaces due to the possibility of foreign object damage (FOD).

    I think the President should use an SR-71. He would get anywhere he wants to go at Mach 3. Let the press and other hangers-on ride in cattle^H^H^H^H^H^H coach on a regular airline flight.

    The SR-71s nickname works well in the current context, too.

  21. Luis Ogando


    Come on, let's face it. The ONLY reason the Airbus A380 was even mooted was because of its size. 'Mr President' is regarded as the Most Powerful Man On The Planet (ppfha!) and 'needs' to have the biggest, most sumptuously decked out passenger airliner available. It's got sod all to do with anything else. Fugging ego trip! It's not even like he's fat! We should have RAF-1 in the shape of a flipping GUPPY for our fat 'leaders'!!!

    @AC-Runways. Limbs aren't an issue. Most airliners built in the last 15 years can take off, fly and land on autopilot (most of the time better than the actual pilot..). A flight attendant could land the plane if they know what button to press.


  22. Simon


    Yes and the terminal requirements are somewhat moot for Air Force 1 too - it always parks well away from public terminals for safety reasons. It's immense size might have reduced the tendency to take a fleet of planes on big trips these days.

  23. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    Not a lot of bargaining anyway

    "That's probably a sound business decision, but it will weaken the US air force in bargaining with Boeing for the presidential jets, as the US manufacturer is now the only realistic contender."

    There probably wouldn't be too much bargaining anyway... I mean, it's probably EMP (electro-magnetic-pulse) resistant, armored, maybe has a some anti-aircraft weapons for defense, chaff, custom electronic countermeasures, and on and on. (Plus the interior being gutted and turned into a custom jet interior) I can't see the words "bargain" or "bargaining" anywhere near a custom job like that.

  24. Daniel B.
    Thumb Up

    Re: Safety

    I thought the same thing as well. Airbus planes float!

  25. Anonymous Coward

    AirFord 1 anybody?

    Anyone in their right mind (and lets face it the senate are anything but in their right mind) will tell you that Airbus planes are better than Boeings in every way, but they're not American. Everyone also knows that Hondas and Toyotas are better in every way than Chryslers and General Motors vehicles, yet buying American is almost a religion to many Americans. I forsee the day when Airforce 1 is one of the few remaining Boeings in the air and Boeing are begging for a bailout. Politicians never learn. Come what may they are intent I'm sure on voting for AirFord 1.

  26. Chris

    Beg to differ...

    "Anyone in their right mind (and lets face it the senate are anything but in their right mind) will tell you that Airbus planes are better than Boeings in every way"

    That's a matter of opinion my friend. And until Airbus stops taking government money in day to day operations, it won't be a legititate business. It's easy to do things when you have government cash rather than earning a contract. Boeing got where it is by being a good company and product. They were only able to buy up competition beacuse they produce good planes. The Boeing Dreamliner is THE superior passenger liner in the world.

  27. Gary

    @Safety-related comments

    "Airbus planes float!".

    It also just happens that it wasn't the first *attempted* water landing of any plane, and the US Air flight had some specific factors in its favour. One of them being, it wasn't landing in open ocean like all of the previous water landings I can recall. They also had the benefit of knowing how *not* to do a water landing. (Not that I'm saying they didn't do a remarkable job under pressure)

    And about the A380 not needing any human to fly it... Not quite true. Someone still needs to program the computer to tell the plane what to do, and not knowing how to do it properly means crashing is highly likely. Just think about the Air France flight 296 crash (among others) where the pilots improperly used the plane's automatic systems. Besides, even Boeing aircraft can auto-land.

    Boeing. Airbus. Neither are necessarily superior manufacturers, though the two *do* operate with very different design theories, and mismanaging either is no better or worse than the other.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Forget politics, how about common sence?

    I bet that the AF1 plane is pretty different from normal 747s.

    I imagine there is enough amour to stop a 50 cal sniper rifle from penetrating the hull and giving the occupants a bad day.

    I’d suggest that the plane is hardened against EMP from a nuke knocking out its systems. I’ll bet that the current 747 AF1 has more resemblance to the original 747 than it does with the current model. More mechanical devices will work after an EMP event than electronic ones. I’m sure that AF1 has lots of electronic fun on it, but I’ll bet it’s not in the flight systems.

    Shielding for electronics adds more weight, plus your not guaranteed have your electronics survive. With mechanical systems, they will work even if they weigh more.

    The choice of aircraft that AF1 is, I feel more to do with survivability than performance. Airbus may have a better aircraft, but it relies on electronics throughout. Can they be guaranteed to work after an EMP event?

    Anyway, the President has no say on what make of aircraft AF1 is, it’s the people who have to protect him that dictate that.

    I’m in the UK and I’d love to see the President flying around in an A380. But, for the reasons stated above, I doubt it would happen.

  29. Moss Icely Spaceport
    Thumb Down

    Commercial flights not good enough?

    Scratch AF1, scrath the fighter escorts.

    Send the POTUS on commercial flights, they often have First Class areas.

    He's just ONE man, he isn't THAT important.

    If he dies, the VP takes over.

    If the VP dies as well, then the next guy, ad infinitum.....there are quite a few US Politicians...

    AF1 is just a massive waste of money.

  30. Alex Rose


    Seriously, what do you describe Boeing going crying to congress about losing to a superior bid and having the decision to award the contract for air-to-air refueling planes to Airbus reversed as if not government interference in the market?

    Funnily enough both companies take advantage of all their relevant governments can do for them, so calling Airbus black is simply showing yourself up to be a pot.

  31. TeeCee Gold badge
    Thumb Down


    "I imagine there is enough amour to stop a 50 cal sniper rifle from penetrating the hull and giving the occupants a bad day."

    I'll bet there fucking well isn't. There's a bloody good reason that the world's military forces aren't universally equipped with flying armoured personnel carriers, you know.

    Oddly enough, if fuselage skin penetration were an issue, the best of breed out there right now is the GLARE skin on the, er, Airbus A380.

  32. jason

    Not surprising they pulled out.

    Whats the deal on offer for Airforce 1 -

    Supply maybe two aircraft that chances are will have to be mainly put together in the US, with US contractors etc. etc. A world of pain for any company.

    Thats not much of a deal for Airbus as most of the money and effort would remain in the US.

    On the other hand the Tanker deal -

    Supply maybe a couple of dozen aircraft mainly built in Europe with final fitting/conversion to be carried out in the US.

    I know which contract I'd concentrate on.

    However as a tax payer I dont care anymore where they planes come from as long as its the best for the job and the best deal for the tax payer.

  33. Jim Morrow
    Paris Hilton

    terrorists and the A380

    Anonymous coward said "If terrorists assassinated all flight personnel on board (bar the pilot), and amputated both of the pilot's legs and one of his arms, he could still fly the plane."

    Fuck me! If a terrorist wanted to incapacitate the pilot, why would he hack off the pilot's limbs but leave them with one arm to fly the plane? What evil terrorist masterplan would that achieve? The terrorist would more than likely just kill the pilots outright. And how could a terrorist get anywhere near Airforce One, let alone get on it? AC's been watching too many dumb Hollywood movies.

    Paris icon because she's been in a few dumb movies.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    re Beg to differ

    >> That's a matter of opinion my friend. And until Airbus stops taking government money in day to day operations, it won't be a legititate business. It's easy to do things when you have government cash rather than earning a contract. Boeing got where it is by being a good company and product.

    Of course. Boeing's never, ever had handouts or made excessive profits from Uncle Sam, has it?

    >> The Boeing Dreamliner is THE superior passenger liner in the world.

    Is that the same Boeing Dreamliner that hasn't even made it out of the factory or actually flown?

  35. Hans

    RE Chris@Beg to differ


    You are forgetting all the government, military, space "contracts" Boing gets!!!

    Boeing went to court and lost on this very issue!!

    But go ahead and spread your FUD further!

    Airbus got loans (money it pays back) from EU governments at some point.

    The McDonald,Lockheed and Boeing could not stop EADS from growing, so they merged the whole lot and still fail. Sad, is it not?

    Dreamliner? ROFL, you also believe that the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo is democratically elected as well, just because the name implies it?

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some forget why Boeing lost the contract

    Boeing splashed around major bribes on Capitol Hill to get the _original_ KC135 replacement contract. That contract was cancelled when the grand scale of the bribery was discovered.

    Unfortunately the blame was placed on a scapegoat and Boeing was allowed to participate in the contract which Airbus won, as fair and square as these things get.

    Boeing then whined to and bribed their tame Congresscritters and got the new contract overturned on the ground of bias. The fact that any bias was perfectly legitimate was ignored.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boeing not government-funded?

    They get NASA research data free-of-charge, stonkingly huge budget (money an time) overruns on military projects and you (Chris) seriously think they're not funded by the US Government? I am not saying that Airbus are any better or worse, just that you should check your facts before you start trying to tell us Boeing are commercial heroes.

    The reason Boeing lost the tanker contract was because the Airbus offering was able to deliver the required performance cheaper, and will actually have a greater share of the work done in CONUS than Boeing's bid. Or did you not realise that Boeing's engine struts (forex) are made in China, and that other contractual workshare offsets made when Boeing were selling airliners mean that much of the "all-American" aircraft is really built overseas?

    But why let a little thing like product capability and availability stand in the way of Boeing's good name?

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