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Friday, 28 October 2016

Up Up And Away

I wasn't aware that Britain is getting a Prime Ministerial aircraft .... indeed so late did I find this out that it may be being used now ... 'Mayforce 1' so to speak. Actually its kinda surprising that we haven't got one already .... the UK is the only G20 nation not to have a dedicated aircraft for transporting either heads of state or government (even Belgium has one).

No One Ever Accuses Britain Of Class Any More .... Cheap Yes, Class No.

Now being Britain, and always being hard up for readies we have chosen the cheap option of winging our leaders, and are upgrading one or two old RAF cast-offs. Voyager A330 air-to-air refuelling aircraft for those of you who like to know these things ... and at a modest £10m per plane apparently makes it around the cheapest head of state aircraft around. Apparently it will cost £2,000 per flying hour (compared with an average £6,700 to use either Royal Squadron planes or a long-haul charter).

We have even said that any spare Royals can use it when not being used by the Prime Minister, or even, laughably, it may be reused for refuelling duties in the RAF ..... Can you imagine 'Air Force One' being used as a refuel air tanker?.

Of course despite the widespread use of them by 'big' countries, they still can cause problems when it comes to upgrading. South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (a man who knows a bit about dipping into the public purse), wants a luxury 4bn rand (£185m) aircraft .... there is some opposition to this. In neighbouring Swaziland, King Mswati plans to acquire a second private plane (one just wasn't enough).

However, its only in the most corrupt of nations that this becomes a major scandal ..... take for example Nigeria, where bribery, tax avoidance, corruption and cronyism are the norm. Starting with the church, where its not unknown for charismatic church leaders in Nigeria to insist that luxury private jets must be part of their lifestyle, they often not only own them, but then customise them to include grand bedrooms, bathrooms with gold washbasins as standard features, and sitting arrangements reconfigured to ensure there are comfortable armchairs and sofas. Thus doubling the cost of the aircraft to twice the original price of the jet.

The rest of the country is just as bad .... Nigeria's elite are increasingly buying private jets which often put in the shade the official presidential plane. The Nigerian Air Force currently maintains a Boeing Business Jet (737) which is known as "Eagle One" ....The latest Nigerian President has announced that the country is selling two of its ten presidential jets, in a bid to "cut down on waste" (US Dollars only if your bidding!).

Looking through a listing of the official head of state aircraft for various countries there are a couple of stand outs .....

Argentina had an air force group operating seven aircraft exclusively for the use of the head of state and their family ... known as 'Agrupación Aérea' it was closed by the new president (after the grandiose Kitchener's left office) in 2016, because of the high cost of repairs and maintenance and the lack of adequate pilots and spare parts.

In a more military mode, the President of Azerbaijan uses a Boeing 767-300 aka "Baku-1", equipped with jamming equipment, anti-missile systems and air-to-air refuelling facility ... he has two back up planes. The Sultan of Brunei operates with five private craft. While Germany has a fleet of eleven aircraft for use by the Government and Italy thirteen ... these are all eclipsed by Mexico, which offers its head of state the choice of eighteen aircraft ... finally Russia offers Putin thirty one aircraft.

Not The Biggest Any More But Still The Best ....

I am not sure how many the USA operates, but it seems to be around five main aircraft.

Bankrupt Greece amazingly still has a number of official aircraft (numbers seem hard to pinpoint). While Israel does not currently possess a single specific jet for use of its Heads of State. When the Prime Minister flies long distances, the Government leases an airliner from the El Al, the country's flag carrier.

However perhaps everyone could take a leaf from the 'Book of Banda' ..... the former Malawian President, Joyce Banda, who was widely praised when she auctioned off her official jet, and vowed to hitch rides with other world leaders.

this Uber sharing may be the way of the future .....

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