Let Cam have his ‘private jet’
Today, the morning headlines here in the UK included news that Prime Minister David Cameron would be receiving his very own ‘private jet’.
Predictably, armchair politicians have come out on social media frothing with anger at such a move. How dare he? They ask. Highlighting the discrepancy between Cameron’s plans to further cut social benefits and healthcare services, and his plans to fly around on a VIP jet like a rich oligarch.
So how much will this opulent palace in the skies cost the British taxpayer?
Not a lot, actually. The figure currently being circulated is just £10 million. Obviously ten million is not a measly amount but in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not that much. The British government is not buying any new aircraft, as was proposed by Tony Blair in his heyday, and will instead utilise one of the Royal Air Force’s existing tanker aircraft.
That aircraft will likely require some modification work in the cabin, including bigger seats (do you really expect the Queen to sit in a cattle class seat?). The A330 MRTT already features defensive aid suites to protect against incoming missiles as well as secure communications, in case the PM needs to send sensitive information while flying.
Surely, it’s a better idea to utilise existing and more capable aircraft we already have rather than putting money in the pocket of private airlines to charter unprotected passenger airliners?
And, what money can’t buy is the international prestige that comes from our head of state or prime minister being flown around by the Royal Air Force, rather than British Airways or, heaven forbid, Ryanair.
And let’s put £10m into perspective. The US is buying two new Air Force One aircraft – based on the Boeing 747-8I – for the President and other senior figures, which will set the government back over $1 billion. The oil-rich Gulf states have splurged millions, if not billions, on new VIP Jumbo Jets that transport the royal families during international visits.
Even European countries such as Germany, France and Italy have dedicated VIP aircraft for their heads of state, flown by their respective air forces. Now what kind of message does it send on the international stage when Dave shows up in his British Airways 747, probably worse for wear after eating a questionable chicken dinner?
For me, spending £10 million on upgrading an aircraft to carry the PM and Queen is money well spent.
Though, we are talking about the British government, so expect cost overruns and for it to be delayed by around 10 years.