ll The forthcoming replacements to the US Air Force VC-25A, also known as Air Force One, are not a cheap project. Today it has been revealed that just the manuals alone will cost the US Air Force more than $80m! While that’s a fraction of the cost of the overall $5bn plus project, it’s still a heck of a lot for a book.
The world’s most expensive book?
Nobody would expect anything to do with a Boeing 747 to be particularly cheap, but we almost fell off our chairs this morning when we read how much one crucial part of the new Air Force Ones was going to cost. Just one item for the pair of Boeing 747-8i destinated to become the new presidential transport will cost the Air Force $84,000,000.
And what was that item? A complicated bit of software? Some modified landing gear? No, according to a report in The Drive today, this was the cost of the manuals alone!
That got us wondering, is this the most expensive book in the world? Possibly. According to data on Wikipedia, the most expensive actual book ever sold was the notebook of Leonardo Da Vinci, which was purchased by Bill Gates in 1994 for a cool $30.8m. Adjusted for inflation, it was worth around $53.1m at the time.
While it might sound insane that a book about how to operate a plane could cost so very much, there are reasons these fight manuals are so eye-wateringly expensive.
Why so expensive?
The US Air Force is poised to replace its aging VC-25 aircraft, popularly known as Air Force One (but only when the President is on board). To take over this vital role, the Air Force is purchasing a pair of modified Boeing 747-8is, known as VC-25Bs. These two aircraft were once the property of now-defunct Russian airline Transaero.
Although there are a fair number of 747-8is in operation around the world, 47 to be precise, the Air Force can’t just acquire a standard manual for these long haul workhorses. The VC-25Bs will be rather unique in comparison to their commercial brethren, and this is part of the reason the flight manual costs so much.
Specifically, the new VC-25s will be fitted with some of the most advanced defense countermeasures known to the world. This includes hardened skins, capable of surviving electromagnetic pulses caused by nuclear warhead detonations. Communications will, of course, be highly secured. As well as all the luxurious comforts on board, the 747s will be fitted with specialist environmental controls to protect both the people and the advanced equipment on board the plane.
— Charles Johnson (@Green_Footballs) April 16, 2020
As well as the physical features of the VC-25, these aircraft are likely to be able to do things you’d never know a 747 could. The Drive suggests this will include steep takeoff and landing, unique evasive maneuvers for attack avoidance, and more.
Finally, the nature of the project means that the manual for the two VC-25s will have been produced in complete secrecy. This will have meant that everything from the design to the content to the printing would have attracted high additional costs, over and above that which is usually incurred in aircraft manual production.
Just a fraction of the cost
Although the $84m price tag of the manuals is enough to make you weep, it’s a mere fraction of the overall cost of the new VC-25s development. The total price tag for the program is currently projected at around $5.3bn. That includes things like new hangars for the planes and other ancillary items.
Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2016
The two 747s themselves are costing the US $4.7bn, which makes them the most costly planes ever built. This is in contradiction to the President’s many claims that he personally succeeded in driving down the cost of the aircraft. He has, however, redesigned the livery of the new airplane, shunning the iconic Kennedy baby blue for a more regal look.
Are you excited to see the new Air Force Ones revealed? Or is the whole thing unnecessarily expensive?