Mbeki's jet will cost R600m over two years

Time of article published Oct 22, 2002

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Inkwazi, the South African Air Force's new VIP intercontinental aircraft has arrived at the Waterkloof air force base.

The plane, to be used by president Thabo Mbeki, was flown on a nonstop delivery flight of about

9 450km from Jet Aviation in Basel, Switzerland, where the interior was fitted.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Boeing business jets were delivered in a basic configuration, without any interior cabin fitments or exterior paint.

"The aircraft has been acquired to satisfy the demand for effective intercontinental VIP air transport required by senior government officials.

"This requirement has escalated during the last couple of years, since South Africa's return to the international fold, and consequently South Africa's growing regional and international diplomatic initiatives and responsibilities," the MoD said.

The aircraft is owned by the SA National Defence Force and operated by the SA Air Force's 21 Squadron on behalf of the country.

The jet was selected due to its capability to transport delegations from Waterkloof, in Pretoria, with its altitude and temperature conditions, on a nonstop flight to destinations over 10 000km away, allowing for possible en-route wind conditions and adequate fuel reserves required at the final destination.

The aircraft's interior has been designed and equipped to provide for a functional VIP environment which will facilitate in-flight work sessions. It includes proper resting facilities to allow the delegation to continue with their official duties upon arrival.

The plane had enough space for the number of crew required by international air traffic regulations. This would save money and better use available resources compared to the currently required pre-positioning of slip crews while travelling in the Falcon 900 aircraft on intercontinental flights, the MoD explained.

Limited emergency medical procedures can be performed on board.

"The full cost to establish the intercontinental VIP air transport capability, including statutory and clearance costs, delivery costs, management costs, initial spares and specialist support equipment and flight operations for two years will amount to approximately R600-million," the MoD said.

Inkwazi, a Zulu word meaning "African fish eagle", carries the civil registration number ZS-RSA. - Sapa

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