Francophone Summit: how the Big Cheese travels!

For the Francophone summit, the Big Cheese was certainly President Sarkozy. Someone as important as him travelled with a retinue, courtesy of the French Air Force.

As with other presidents of the major countries, President Sarkozy does not travel alone on a standard flight. Instead, when he came to Geneva he was certainly accompanied by numerous aides, perhaps even a Press Corps. The French Air Force was roped in to assist this perilous visit (maybe worried about striking French workers acquiring ground-to-air missiles?), and they provided four aircraft.

Prior to the visit, on 19 October, a Falcon 50, registered as F-RAFL, arrived late in the afternoon. It departed just 24 hours later, so perhaps this was just a reconnaissance trip, made by a rather old aircraft (built in 1981).

The other three aircraft all arrived in the morning of Saturday 23 October, leaving again in the evening. The first of these, a very modern Falcon 7X (built in 2009) with registration F-RAFA, landed just before 8am, followed by an Airbus A319 with registration F-RBFA at around 9:30am. Both of these aircraft have been here before, and duly recorded by one of our local intrepid spotters. This latter aircraft flew in with the callsign CTM001. Since CTM is the International Civil Aviation code for the French Air Force, we can guess that the flight number (001) might indicate that the president was on board. We could be wrong, though.

The last of the four aircraft is slightly curious: it identified itself by the ICAO code 3B77F8, which is supposed to be a SOCATA TBM-700, a high performance single engine turboprop aircraft something like a Pilatus PC-12. However, it used the callsign "93", which has also been used by the French Air Force for a Mirage 2000 jet.

If we suppose that it was actually the TBM-700 then one might wonder why it came just before midday, leaving again at the end of the afternoon. Did the President forget something: his speech, his nuclear codes (like the US President!), his gift to the Swiss? Or did Carla come for a quick shopping trip?

The other two jet  aircraft both left later that evening: the Falcon preceding the Airbus. Good night.


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