On Tuesday, Boeing’s chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said that he and President-elect Donald Trump “made progress” on lowering the cost of the Air Force One presidential aircraft fleet and on a potential sale of Boeing fighter aircraft, and suggesting that a deal could be struck soon.
Muilenburg’s visit to Trump Tower on Tuesday marked another step in Trump’s efforts to cut better deals with defense contractors, as well as displayed Boeing’s adroit use of the meetings to pursue its own sales and mark its importance to the US manufacturing economy.
Since his election in November 2016, Trump has been pressuring defense companies on prices through Twitter posts and meetings. Last month, he said a $4 billion contract for Air Force One was too expensive and should be canceled.
Politics|'Cancel Order!' Donald Trump Attacks Plans for Upgraded Air Force One – New York Times https://t.co/Yp0VgUsrxr
— Air Force (@AirForce24x7) December 12, 2016
Boeing has said it so far has a $170 million contract for design work on the heavily modified Boeing 747 planes and that no final figure for the fleet of planes had been established.
Last month, Trump also asked the Chicago-based aerospace and defense company to price a contract for Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet to compete with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter, which is famously over budget.
While not offering details, after the hour-long meeting, Muilenburg shared his optimism with reporters and said the “excellent conversation” with Trump could lead to a deal “in the very near term.”
“We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices,” Muilenburg said. “That’s going to lead to substantial cost reductions.”
On fighter jets, he commented, “We were able to talk about options for the country and capabilities that will, again, provide the best capability for our war fighters most affordably.”
Muilenburg praised Trump’s approach to negotiations, saying, “I think Mr. Trump is doing a great job of engaging business,” He also noted that as the US’ top exporter, Boeing supports 1.5 million US manufacturing jobs and 13,000 small and mid-sized supplier companies.
“If you want manufacturing jobs, aerospace is the place to invest,” he said. “We’re proud to take on that mission and I think Mr. Trump’s engagement with industry is going to help us grow manufacturing jobs in this country.”
“I appreciate the teamwork approach on this – I think it’s the right way to do business.” Boeing’s stock was down 0.6% at $157.87 in afternoon trade.