Ghana’s presidential jet, the Falcon 900 EX-Easy aircraft is in France for very much long overdue major repair works.
The presidential jet is due for major repair works and it is expected that the works will last for some four months.
All things being equal, it is scheduled to return to Ghana in December, Eugene Arhin, Communication Director at the presidency disclosed.
During the period, the president will have no choice than to use commercial flights for all foreign travels.
He reacted to Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who posted the question, “who used the Presidential Jet to France” on his facebook page.
Since last year, the Minority in Parliament had criticised the President for using what they describe as luxurious private jets for his travels when the official presidential jet was still in good condition.
The Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee has been condemning the President for using a chartered luxurious private jet for his foreign trips.
He has accused the government of wasting taxpayers’ money and called on Ghanaians to hold government accountable.
Mr Arhin explained that the only persons who flew the jet to France for the major repairs are the crew made up of pilots from the Ghana Air Force.
He noted that the Presidential Jet departed Ghana on August 30 to France for major repair works to be carried out on it – repair works which are very much long overdue.
According to him, the Air Force has indicated that the Presidential Jet will be out of service for a total of four months, and will return to Ghana and be available for use in December.
He said Minister for Defence, Dominic Nitiwul in May this year alerted Ghanaians to the fact that the Presidential Jet would be flown to France for major repair works to be undertaken on it.
He cautioned Mr Ablakwa to minimize his penchant for engaging in propaganda regarding the Presidential Jet, to avoid further embarrassments to his person.
Politics of presidential jets in Ghana (DH125 acquired in 1962)
Ghana’s first presidential jet was the DH125 acquired in 1962 by Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, who used it till he was ousted in the February 24, 1966 coup.
Fokker 28 acquired in 1976
The second presidential jet was acquired by General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong in 1976. That is the Dutch-made Fokker 28.
Gulfstream GIII acquired in 1998
The third presidential jet-the Gulfstream GIII was brought by President Jerry John Rawlings. It was bought from the Americans and arrived in 1998.
Its purchase generated controversy and President John Agyekun Kufuor refused to use it opting for commercial flights till his administration purchased one. The Gulfstream was sold in 2006.
Kufuor explained that apart from the fact that the Gulfstream was old, there were also related issues about the circumstances surrounding its purchase by the Jerry Rawlings regime since it did not go through Parliament, and its purchase was also shrouded in secrecy.
The current and fourth presidential jet was ordered in 2008 by Kufuor.
Falcon 900 EX-Easy aircraft acquired in 2008
The Falcon 900 EX-Easy aircraft carries 12 passengers minus crew.
Kufuor explained that after his government placed an order for the Falcon, manufacturers of the aircraft approached Ghana in a bid to convince government to purchase a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) which can carry over 100 passengers and about 40 passengers on VVIP setting.
An agreement was reached with the company to put Ghana’s name in a queue so that when the country could afford a second aircraft, Ghana will not have to join a long queue.
In 2010, the President Mills’ government was accused of double standards for inaugurating the new presidential jet though kicking against it in opposition.
Minister of Defence at the time, Lt. General J.H. Smith, said at the inaugurating that the plane goes beyond political party consideration as both the Kufour and Mills administrations worked hard to acquire it.
He said the presidential jet would enable the presidency to travel in comfort in the sub-region and beyond.
The Defence Minister said there was a problem with the old Fokker 28 aka ‘Flying Coffin’ which should have “gone on retirement long ago.”
However, when the President used 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.
Aside the occupancy challenges, the current Falcon for presidential travels has to be stopping to refuel when on long travels.
President Mills preferred flying commercial a number of times instead of using the Falcon during his tenure.
However, his Communication Director Koku Anyidoho recently revealed the difficulties President Mills went through especially on international travels, when he opted to travel commercial.
He said security people were not happy because it was unsafe and it inconvenienced other passengers on the commercial flights in the process.
He said President Mills chartered a flight on one occasion from USA to Venezuela.
He disclosed that the life threatening challenges President Mills encounter in domestic travels even on a chartered flight led to the purchase of the Embraer for the Airforce from Brazil.
In his assessment, the experience of the Mills government between 2009 and 2012 was indicative that President Kufuor’s decision was in the interest of the state, safety for the presidency and cost saving.
In spite of all these difficulties narrated by Koku Anyidoho and some near death experiences that the current president and John Mahama are said to have escaped, a resort to private jets by President Nana Akufo-Addo has generated controversy.
The government has indicated that processes have been commenced to buy a new presidential but once again, the NDC has kicked against it.
It is important to note that by the time the new jet is delivered; President Akufo-Addo would have ended his presidential tenure and will therefore not have the opportunity to use it.
In the event that the NDC wins the 2024 elections, it will be the first to enjoy the presidential jet just as Mills was the first to use the presidential jet purchased by Kufuor.
There is no denying that the Ghana Airforce needs a bigger aircraft which can be used by the Airforce and also serve presidential travel needs.
This whole business of how Ghana takes care of the presidency, how the presidency is managed needs to be looked at in the broader public debate devoid of parochial political interest.