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New Air Force One project hits a snag here in Texas

Most people refer to Air Force One as the plane in which the U.S. president travels — basically a flying White House that can hold 70 passengers. The president’s plane has an office, conference room and even a gym. More importantly, it has secure communications systems and even a bunker in case of attack.

However, “Air Force One” is actually not the name of a plane, but the radio call sign for any plane that’s carrying the president. If, by some twist of fate, you were flying the president around in your Cessna 185, that’s the call sign you’d use.

Currently, there are two planes that serve as what we consider Air Force One. At all times, one is always ready to go. Both planes, made by Boeing, have been in service for 31 years. That’s why Boeing is converting two of its 748-8 planes into aircraft to be used by the president. Their planned delivery date is Dec. 2024.

Legal wrangling and layoffs

There’s been a hitch. Boeing fired a subcontractor, GDC Technics, which was working on the planes in San Antonio. The aircraft manufacturing giant is also suing the company over alleged financial issues and missed deadlines. According to the suit, these problems seriously jeopardized the project.

GDC Technics has countersued, claiming that it was Boeing’s mismanagement of the project that created the delays, that it failed to pay the subcontractor what they were owed and that their actions have damaged GDC’s reputation.

This month, GDC announced that it will lay off over 200 workers, close its San Antonio facility and probably shut down most of its operations in Fort Worth, where the company is headquartered.

According to a spokesperson, Boeing is continuing on in San Antonio with some of its work on the Air Force One aircrafts in accordance with the $3.9 billion contract it signed with the U.S. Air Force in 2018. It hasn’t been reported whether another subcontractor has been chosen to replace GDC or if this dispute is expected to move the current year-end 2024 deadline.

Contractors/subcontractor disputes aren’t uncommon in aviation. However, when they involve a project of this magnitude, the impact on both parties – particularly the smaller one – can be devastating. That’s why experienced legal guidance is necessary.