The aeroplane that the President of Ghana uses to travel for international conferences has in recent times become a subject of discussion.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has been accused by the MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, of abandoning the current Dassault Falcon 900 EXE for a luxury aircraft that grants him comfort at the expense of the ordinary taxpayer.
The French-built Dassault Falcon 900 EX-Easy aircraft, was acquired during President John Agyekum Kufuor’s era in 2007 but was delivered for use in 2010.
Speaking to the media on Monday, September 27, at the Jubilee House, the Director of Communications at the Presidency, Eugene Arhin hinted: “Government is already in the process of acquiring a bigger jet for use.
“The Minister of Defence has made it clear that the government has decided to buy a bigger jet to save us from all these troubles. I wouldn’t want to go into details. I am sure when the Minister of Defence has the opportunity he will do that.”
Eugene Arhin was answering a question on whether the government intended buying a bigger aircraft to accommodate the President and his entourage on official foreign trips as the current presidential jet had proven inadequate for the purpose.
He explained that the move to get a bigger fit-for-purpose aircraft was part of a cost-saving measure on the travels of the President and other key state functionaries.
He noted further that during President Kufuor’s administration, plans were far advanced to purchase two aircraft, the current jet (Falcon 900 EX-Easy aircraft – 12 passengers minus crew) and a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) – over 100 passengers and about 40 passengers on VVIP setting – but when the NPP lost power to the NDC in 2008, the then president, John Evans Atta Mills, cancelled the BBJ deal, which was supposed to be a bigger presidential jet.
Arhin stated that it would have made better economic sense to keep the bigger one because when travelling, the entire delegation can all move at a go to help save cost.
Ablakwa’s question on Akufo-Addo’s luxurious trips abroad
Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, the North Tongu MP, has asked an urgent question in Parliament as to why President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has not been using the Falcon 900 EXE, which is supposed to be Ghana’s Presidential jet for long haul travels in recent times and instead relying on expensive chartered aircraft.
Ablakwa’s dogged call for transparency in presidential travels has triggered a public debate on the state of the presidential jet, whether it was in good condition and considered air-worthy.
Minister of Defence response to Ablakwa’s question
In his response, the minister indicated that the time was ripe for the nation to acquire a new and befitting presidential jet.
He said this was because the current Falcon 900 EX-Easy aircraft, used by the President, was not fit for purpose.
“The capacity of the current Falcon aircraft is far below that of Fokker 28 which flew very, very important persons of more than 25 passengers during the Acheampong, Akuffo, Rawlings and Kufuor eras hence the urgent need for an appropriate aircraft which can carry a better payload in terms of passengers of 70 to 100 people and to carry all their baggage without affecting the performance of the aircraft.”
He noted, the presidential jet – Falcon 900 Ex-Easy – could only carry 11 passengers minus the crew and it often had to do “undesirable refuelling stops at unintended destinations” during long hauls, causing inconvenience to both the President and the host countries.
Nitiwul stated that to avert such inconveniences, the use of the chartered private jet was critical as it could carry more passengers and fly long distances without making stops to refuel.
“Yes, while Falcon Ex-Easy is serviceable and airworthy, the decision to travel particularly to long and multiple destinations such as the President travelling to France, Belgium and South Africa and back to Ghana, especially during the COVID era, would always require a larger capacity aircraft such as a Boeing Business jet (BBJ) or Airbus ACJ 319 not even when the Falcon is airworthy,” he said.
“Very, very important persons (VVIPs) or Presidential travel is not about aircraft type or cost but it is all about the safety of the aircraft crew and passengers.”
Dominic Nitiwul explained that it was more expensive not to have a Boeing Business Jet or an Airbus Jet, pointing out how Ghana had to spend over $50m over the last 10 years to airlift soldiers for peacekeeping missions alone.
“If the Air Force has a strategic lift, this amount would have been saved to the treasury,” he said.
The minister noted, the Ghana Airforce has for a long time, asked for the re-equipping of the Communication Squadron to enable it to perform its functions effectively.
Former President John Agyekum Kufuor is said to have heard that plea of the Armed Forces and decided to acquire, a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) and a Falcon 900 Ex-Easy Jet.
The BBJ jet, Nitiwul stated, which could carry over 100 passengers and about 40 passengers on VVIP seating, was intended for long haul journeys and to also act as a strategic lift aircraft.
While the Falcon 900 Ex-Easy Jet was to serve as a backup to the BBJ and also to serve shorter routes but for some reason, the minister stressed, the BBJ order was cancelled by the new government in 2009, with the Falcon 900 EX-Easy being the only aircraft delivered in 2010.
Dominic Nitiwul noted further that, when the President wants to travel on the Falcon 900 Ex-Easy Jet, most of the presidential staffers, security details and presidential press corp travelled commercial, with increased cost and its attendant delays.