The German government has funded the Luftwaffe to purchase three A350-900’s for government transport use following another highly embarrassing technical failure on board one of its A340-300’s late last year.
One of the aircraft carrying German Chancellor Angela Merkel, was forced to return to Germany while on its way to the G20 meeting in Buenos Aries in December 2018., because of a complete radio system failure. It meant that she missed the opening ceremony and a key conference as she was nearly 20 hours late arriving, having had to fly on a commercial service last-minute.
Similar issues have occurred in the last three years with other older government A310’s and A340’s. Two A340’s had been purchased from Lufthansa in 2009 and refitted for use by 2011 but are now 20 years old.
- Germany’s President was stranded in Ethiopia when one of the A343’s broke down and had to fly back on Ethiopian Airlines in November 2018
- Germany’s Minister for Overseas Development was stranded in Malawi, resulting in the entire tour of Africa being cancelled in September 2018
- Germany’s foreign minister was delayed when one aircraft broke down in Madrid in July 2018.
“It’s not really showing a modern technological Germany in a very good light is it” said one Ambassador, “something needs to be done”.
Some western governments are very shy about providing VIP aircraft seeing it as expensive to justify in a democracy on strained budgets. France operates a VIP A330 for the President of the Republic, but Britain, where VIP transport is deeply frowned upon, has only the RAF MRTT A330’s .
These can be configured for VIP use as needed, but can also be a tanker or passenger transport and are often leased out to Thomas Cook at peak summer periods. One is available for use by the Queen or Prince of Wales, on state visits or the Prime Minister on Government business if its considered appropriate. British Government officials prefer to charter BA or Virgin Atlantic aircraft rather than be seen using an RAF resource.
The Luftwaffe A350’s will be purchased in 2019, 2021 and 2023 with a standard cabin and refitted later with private rooms and conference facilities. They’ll be the first A350’s used by any government.
The history of government jets is varied. Poland lost its entire ruling government and president when one crashed in Russia a few years ago, Mexico recently purchased a 787-9, but thats now to be sold. Middle eastern countries go almost the other way in excess operating a small airlines worth in the case of Qatar for example. South Korea recently agreed a 748i, Japan now has a 777-300ER for official use. Some governments keep their aircraft low visibility – for example The Netherlands operates a 738BBJ. Russia’s presidency operates a fleet of aircraft including specially equipped Tupolev’s.