An engine is missing parts. Other shrink wrap. The cost of repairing and maintaining the volatility could be in the six figures, a price Trump doesn’t seem interested in at the moment. While the current state of finances is not public, the Covid 19 pandemic has taken a toll on the hospitality industry, where many of the businesses are located.
Flight records viewed by CNN show that the 757 hasn’t flown at all since Inauguration Day, when Trump stopped using Air Force One and left it to less conspicuous modes of transportation.
A spokesman for the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment about why the plane is not being used or repaired and whether Trump plans to return it to flight status soon.
A CNN camera crew saw Trump’s plane parked Wednesday on a fenced-in runway at a small airport in New York state, about an hour and a half from Trump Tower. The decision to leave it on the road to the northeast airport, where it would be exposed to the elements, stunned aviation experts who spoke to CNN. You realize it’s only a few hours flight to a warmer, drier climate. Snow, rain and moisture can corrode the metal of the hull and engines – this is difficult to detect and in severe cases can lead to disaster. Large aircraft are usually stored for long periods in the southwestern desert, where the dry climate makes corrosion almost impossible.
Trump rarely, if ever, admits that he has lost power. Now that the 757 is apparently out of control, Trump is left with his much smaller business jet, at least for now. According to flight records, Trump’s 1997 Citation X, a Cessna 750, was used semi-regularly in recent months and made frequent flights between Palm Beach International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York.
This is the plane Trump took on his first post-presidential trip to Manhattan earlier this month. The smaller jet is not his favorite, says a former White House official who often flies with Trump on both planes. With only eight seats, a Citation like the one Trump uses is harder to handle and far less luxurious than a 757.
It also doesn’t have his name on the outside, the source said, pointing to the giant name Trump has on the front. The Citation has a small Trump family patch on the fuselage. It’s a step back for a man who likes to paint his family name on just about everything he owns, from hotels to bottles of wine.
The aeroplane as a campaign tool
When Donald Trump bought a used Boeing 757 from the late Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen in 2010, it quickly became his favorite toy, he liked to tell his friends. Despite being nearly 20 years old, Trump has praised his plane for the next decade. He was very picky about who flew the plane, where they sat and how they were allowed to move around, says another frequent flyer. None of the regular passengers wanted to make a speech for fear of reprisals.
In 2015, just two months before he announced his first candidacy for president, Donald Trump invited several Iowa reporters to an impromptu press conference, then blamed them for nearly ruining his baby.
One guy is very dangerous with that camera. I’m talking and looking at the camera that’s about that far from the ceiling, knowing that my day will be ruined if they destroy the ceiling, Trump said, according to a report by the Des Moines Register.
The journalist then placed his equipment on one of the plane’s mahogany coffee tables. When the reporter apologized, Trump said: What do you say? I’m sorry too.
When he started campaigning in earnest, the 757, also known as Trump Force One, became as big a publicity stunt as billboards or TV ads. Look how successful I am… That’s the message Trump has been sending to voters, sometimes taking them offstage at his rallies.
Trump’s flashbulbs worked all the way to the White House, and many of his supporters were swept along by an informative, almost hypnotic rhythm of planes, limousines, houses, glamorous women, gold and near-money. His high-flying, gilded tone is perhaps the most valuable thing he has. An examination of Trump’s tax returns by the New York Times in September found that his personal branding is the most successful in Trump’s business.
But as with many Trump accounts created for marketing purposes, the reality of the giant jet was different behind the scenes. It was a money pit, the plane had outlived its usefulness, the mechanics were rotten and the storage costs were exorbitant.
Flying this thing was so expensive, says a former senior official. I don’t think people realize that it costs literally tens of thousands of dollars to get it off the ground and stop it.
According to CNN aviation analyst David Soucy, Boeing 757s cost about $15,000 to $18,000 an hour. But at this point, the plane can actually fly. According to an experienced pilot who saw him this week, Trump’s 757 is not yet ready to fly. The source did not want to be identified.
It’s an old engine, and the availability of spare parts becomes an issue, so operating costs increase dramatically, Susi says. Most airlines are phasing out the 757 as more fuel-efficient models become available.
During the presidential campaign, Trump referred to the powerful Rolls-Royce RB211 turbofans in his 757 and said he had personally insisted on the 500-hp engines. They’re special, they’re very popular, the most popular, Trump said in a 2013 documentary about the plane. In fact, the engines are standard for this particular model of the Boeing 757.
Soucie says that currently at least one of the aircraft’s Rolls-Royce engines appears to be in need of an overhaul. It would easily cost six figures to repair one of these engines, he said.
The life of a jet engine is limited to the number of operating hours and the number of cycles – a measure of how often the engine is started. Once the engine has reached the number of hours or cycles prescribed by the manufacturer and state regulatory agencies, a critical engine inspection in the hot zone is required by law.
Before Trump bought it from Paul Allen, the plane was used as a scheduled airliner in Mexico in the 1990s, according to a 2016 article about the plane in the Times.
If the wear is severe, the engine may need to be replaced, which could cost up to $1 million, Susi says.
The extravagance of the plane may now be too much for Trump’s finances. Her net worth has declined in recent years. According to reports from the New York Times, Trump is personally responsible for debts and loans totaling $421 million. Most of this debt will mature over the next four years. Some of the best-known companies are losing millions, even tens of millions of dollars, year after year, the Times reported. This includes golf courses, which have suffered losses of at least $315 million over the past two decades. Mr Trump’s organisation did not respond to requests for comment.
A Bloomberg News report this week estimated that Trump’s net worth has fallen by $700 million since February 2016, from $3 billion to $2.3 billion.
Trump might have used money from his political action committees to pay for plane upgrades or other expenses, experts say. PACs are often used as bribes, according to Paul S. Ryan, a campaign finance expert and senior attorney at Common Cause, a nonprofit that advocates for good governance.
The campaign finance law does not require PAC money to be used for political purposes, which leaves open the possibility that Trump used PAC money to pay for repairs to his private jet.
Trump’s latest PAC isn’t expected to be made public for some time, so it’s unclear if he spent any of that money on aircraft maintenance.
But in the past he has used campaign money for travel. For example, when he was running for president in 2016, Trump used campaign money to pay travel expenses to a company called Tag Air, which is owned by Trump. CNN estimates that he has spent a total of $8.7 million on Tag Air this cycle.
Trump can still sell the plane. He does that mostly with replacement property, including a house next to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach that just this month went over the counter for $49 million, $31 million more than he paid in 2018. But unlike real estate, planes lose value no matter how much gold they contain, and Trump’s 757 is worth nowhere near more than when it rolled off the assembly line in 1991.
According to a 2013 documentary about the plane, Trump paid $100 million for it. Although he paid much less, similar 757s are currently on the market for about $7-10 million.
Tissus de Paris
Whatever price he paid, Trump did not skimp on the installation of his new plane.
He was very involved in the design, says Eric Roth, president of Long Island-based International Jet Interiors, which equips the private jets of some of the world’s wealthiest people. We met several times to see what he wanted.
This is Roth, whom Trump initially contacted when he discovered Allen’s plane was for sale. I flew it to Redmond, Washington, inspected it and told him what I thought of it, says Roth, who had to endure a six-month overhaul to get it off the road almost immediately after Trump completed his purchase in 2010.
The standard 757 seats about 228 passengers; Trump’s plane had only 43, with a master bedroom, a guest suite, a dining room, a VIP area and a kitchen. We gilded all the metal parts on the plane – headlights, buckles, handles, locks, buttons – with 24-karat gold, Roth says, adding that this one part cost about a quarter of a million dollars.
Roth said he and Trump have discussed what would work for Donald Trump and how to do it royally. They finished with cream and gold tones and mahogany and suede panels.
He chose very classic materials and designs, things that are timeless, Roth says.
The fabrics, which Roth describes as more formal, were brought from Paris. Trump’s family crest was embroidered in gold thread on the headrests of the seats. Roth said Melania Trump had nothing to do with the design or equipment of the plane. The plane in question was Mr Trump’s previous private plane, a 41-year-old Boeing 727 that he put up for sale in 2009 and which Ms Melania Knauss used as a backdrop for her cast in British magazine GQ, complete with an infamous photo of her lying naked on a carpet in one of the plane’s banquet rooms.
The sale of the 727 paved the way for the purchase of the 757. Trump’s popularity, thanks to The Apprentice and Celebrity, peaked in 2010. He wanted a private jet to match his success.
Trump certainly doesn’t need a 757 to get around. The smaller and lighter the Citation, the easier it is to get in and out of small private airports. The offering is also faster and cheaper than the 757. The plane’s charter broker tells CNN that Trump’s smaller plane will cost about $5,000 an hour.
This makes fuel and crew, etc. much easier to pay for, a footprint more suited to someone who can tighten the purse strings.
But Trump was never the man he is today.
The old official question: Will the day come when Trump flies a commercial airliner? Honestly? I think if he had the choice between flying on a plane or staying home, he would stay home.
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