By Jung Sung-ki
U.S. aerospace giant Boeing is set to slam-dunk a deal with Korea to sell it an advanced presidential jet, as its archrival European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) has dropped its bid for the $350 million contract, according to industry sources and the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) Wednesday.
The DAPA released a request for proposals in May for the “VC-X” program to purchase a presidential plane. But only Boeing submitted its proposals before the Aug. 3 deadline, the agency said.
The arms procurement agency extended the deadline to Aug. 16, but EADS is not likely to participate in the contest, said an industry source privy to the VC-X program.
“From the beginning, Cheong Wa Dae has wanted Boeing’s model, and EADS was well aware of that,” the source said. “EADS doesn’t want to waste its time and budget for the VC-X and will instead put its energy into a deal for aerial refueling tankers in the future.”
Boeing is proposing its 747-8 airplane.
The DAPA plans to review Boeing’s proposals and evaluate the plane’s performances by October before awarding the final contract, a DAPA official said.
Once a contract is sealed, a new presidential plane will be operational beginning 2013, the official said.
The Boeing 747-8 is a wide-body commercial airliner currently being developed. It will be the largest commercial aircraft built in the United States, with a lengthened fuselage, redesigned wings and improved efficiency. The passenger version, dubbed the 747-8 Intercontinental, will be able to carry up to 467 passengers in a 3-class configuration and fly more than 15,000 kilometers at Mach 0.855. The 747-8I is scheduled to enter service next year.
Korea has long sought to operate a bigger, long-range presidential plane because the current Boeing 737 VIP plane, introduced in 1985, can only accommodate 41 passengers and has a maximum flight range of 3,400 kilometers, rendering it unable to fly out of Northeast Asia without refueling.
Against this backdrop, the presidential office charters flights in turn from the nation's two airliners, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines.
The presidential office leased a Boeing 747-400 airplane earlier this year for four years until a new VIP plane arrives.