It has been five years since the $640 toilet seats. Now comes word the Air Force spent $1,868.15 for a toilet cover assembly built by a Fullerton defense contractor for the C-5B transport plane.
Congressional staff investigators who discovered the price paid for this and other items said they were able to find similar commercial toilet covers for about $182--roughly one-tenth of the military's price.
The Air Force confirmed it paid $1,868.15 but denied the part could have been purchased for much less, calling the cost "reasonable."
The two spare toilet cover assemblies were purchased from Fullerton-based Weber Aircraft in August, 1988. There are two toilets on each of the nation's 50 C-5B transport planes, which can carry up to 75 soldiers.
The price was disclosed by Kris Kolesnik, staff investigator for Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), and staff member Mark Forman of the Joint Economic Committee in an internal memo sent July 23 to Grassley and Sen. William Roth (R-Del.).
Phebe Brown, a spokeswoman at the Air Force's San Antonio Logistics Center in Texas, said the cover assembly is complex, containing cutouts for the toilet seat plus piping and electrical and mechanical components that are part of the lavatory holding tank.
"We have contacted commercial airline companies for the price they spend on similar units, and we got a real bargain," Brown said.
"Boeing said the commercial prices for their units on 707s is a little over $2,000," she added, "and McDonnell Douglas said the price for similar units on their DC-10s is over $9,000.
"The cost is high because of a very expensive fabrication process," she said.
Weber Aircraft President David Vanover said Friday that the prices for C-5B toilet assemblies are not out of line because they are more complicated than home toilets.
"When you and I go into the hardware store, that price would seem exorbitant," he said. "But it depends on what is included in the assembly. Our posture is to deliver a quality product at a fair price."
Weber employs 800 people in Orange County and about 2,000 worldwide. The company manufactures passenger seats and other interior furnishings for commercial aircraft.