Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg met with the president-elect at Trump Tower on Tuesday to talk about the jet maker’s contract to build the new Air Force One and about the F-18 Super Hornet.
Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said he “made some great progress” in face-to-face talks with Donald Trump on the president-elect’s demand to hold down costs on the next-generation version of Air Force One.
In addition to Boeing’s contract to build the new Air Force One, the main presidential aircraft, they talked in their second meeting since the election about the company’s F-18 Super Hornet, which Trump suggested last month should be upgraded to compete with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 as the Pentagon’s advanced jet fighter.
“We discussed Air Force One, we discussed fighter aircraft,” Muilenburg told reporters after the meeting Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York. “We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification.”
Trump has shaken the defense industry — and put all large U.S. companies with government contracts on notice — with his Twitter postings. In a tweet on Tuesday morning, the president-elect boasted of “the massive cost reductions I have negotiated on military purchases,” although no specific reductions have yet been announced.
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“I think Mr. Trump is doing a great job of engaging with business,” Muilenburg said after their meeting Tuesday. “We’re on the same page here.”
Although Boeing has announced plans to pare its workforce amid slowing commercial-aircraft sales, its CEO touted the economic growth and the 1.5 million manufacturing jobs that the largest U.S. exporter supports.
“You want manufacturing jobs — aerospace is the place to invest,” Muilenburg said. “We’re proud to take on that mission.”
Trump’s public pressure on Boeing began on Dec. 6, when he tweeted that “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!”
After that comment, Muilenburg vowed that the Chicago-based company could build a new version of Air Force One for less than $4 billion.
Boeing isn’t the only defense contractor that’s felt the fury of Trump’s tweets. Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson has met twice with Trump after he attacked the company for “out of control costs” on the F-35 jet, the largest U.S. weapons program.
Trump also called on Boeing to “price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet,” referring to the company’s F/A-18E/F jet, to compete with the F-35, a proposal defense analysts said was probably unworkable given the different roles and capabilities of the two fighters.
After the president-elect’s criticism, Hewson told Trump last week that Lockheed is close to a deal with the Pentagon to lower costs “significantly’’ on the next and largest production lot yet of F-35s.