Presidency needs more long-haul aircraft

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pretoria - Deputy Defence Minister Thabang Makwetla says it's a concern that there is currently only one airplane in the Presidency's fleet which is able to fly long-haul distances.

"It is a matter which the Defence Force has always raised. It's undesirable that we only have one long-range plane that the Presidency is using, the Inkwazi," said Makwetla.

This follows the recent incident in which Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe's aircraft was diverted to Gbadolite in the Democratic Republic of Congo for refuelling because of bad weather in Bangui in the Central Africa Republic, where he was supposed to have landed.

Motlanthe, along with International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe and Makwetla, had been in Libya for the Special Session of the African Union.

"The reason why the Deputy President's plane landed in the Gbadolite was because of bad weather which had not been anticipated. It could not refuel where it was supposed to according to the flight plan," said Makwetla.

He added that Gbadolite was the first alternative option for refuelling.

Makwetla said the availability of aircraft that are able to fly long-haul journeys was of immediate concern. The fleet provides transport for the Presidency as well as other dignitaries in government.

"We have always said that is not enough, it's not sufficient," he added.

He said while he was not in a position to plan operations for such trips, "the point is that the Presidency needs to have planes that we, as an Air Force, can use to take them to their destinations without risking their lives in the manner in which it almost happened."