10/31/2010

After the Francophone summit, what aircraft for heads of state?

President Sarkozy had to come to Geneva in an old Airbus A319, but soon he will be upgraded to an aircraft that used to be Swiss. He will certainly be better than the Swiss president, but still far behind President Obama.


It has been stated that President Sarkozy ordered a "new" presidential aircraft about 3 years ago (before the financial crash) because his old Airbus A319 had a limited range. Thus, when he flew to Japan for a G8 summit, he had to refuel in the middle of Russia.

It is believed that this aircraft used to fly for Swissair until 2002, then for Swiss for another year after the Grounding. At that time its registration was HB-IQB : an Airbus A320-223. This aircraft was then reregistered as F-OPTP, used by Air Caraibes, before being purchased for the French president. Since then it has been refurbished to hold 60 passengers (previously it carried 340 passengers) and has just left Bordeaux on its maiden voyage to New Caledonia. It is reported to have a suite with a double bedroom, a conference room, encrypted communications and a missile defence system.

Although this will certainly raise his standing in the lineups of heads of state, he will be still a long way behind president Obama and his Boeing 747 "Air Force One". In addition, when President Obama visits Asia, starting with India, in a week or so, he will be accompanied by two other Jumbo jets (for staff and press) and a fighter escort (plus ships of the US Navy patrolling offshore). He will already have been preceded by numerous giant C17 cargo planes to move in all the equipment needed for this 10-day visit.

President Sarkozy might also be moved down a prestige notch when the German government takes delivery of two Airbus A340-300.

So how about the Swiss president? Well, (s)he should be a little more modest, but have a modern Swiss-built passenger aircraft that can be adapted for military objectives (so as not to need a fighter escort).

How about a Pilatus PC-12 (like the one used by the Bulgarian Air Force for VIP transport) ?

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Comments

Frankly I don't see how an A319 is so unsuited to fly Sarko from Paris to Geneva, nor how can it be considered that old when it flew for the first time only in 2001. And for his trip to Japan, I don't understand why he didn't use one of the two A340-200s the French Air Force already operates.

The new aircraft to be delivered is not an A320-223 but rather an A330-223 that is indeed 12 y.o., but the two "new" German A340s are former Lufthansa aircraft and about 10 and 11 y.o. respectively, so all things considered there's nothing to brag about. In fact, all these heads of states should show a lot more of humility than their current "like Kings out of touch with reality" behaviors. They are just childish.

Posted by: Patrick | 11/01/2010

I stand corrected. I think that I did mean to specify the A330, not the A320, but I had not much information other than an article in the Sunday Times (which I think is not generally available). As for why her didn't go to Japan in an A340 ...
As for humility, I can think of many people who should show some of that desirable quality, including some who have been rewarded for failure by a hefty pension and are now trying to improve their golf handicap! There was also the story of the presidents of failed US banks who were forced to admit that they flew to a Senate hearing in their private jets!

Posted by: Mike Gerard | 11/01/2010

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