Boris Johnson has said he “probably needs” to have a “Brexit jet”, after complaining that the RAF Voyager assigned to transport ministers “never seems to be available”.
The Foreign Secretary Boris claimed that revealed its multiple users mean it is difficult for senior ministers to book when they need it, saying:
“What I will say about the Voyager, I think it’s great, but it seems to be very difficult to get hold of. It never seems to be available. I don’t know who uses it, but it never seems to be available.”
And he added: “Also, why does it have to be grey?”
Because it’s a taxpayer funded, military aircraft Mr Johnson.
Asked if he would like to have a “Brexit plane”, he told reporters:
“If there’s a way of doing it that is not exorbitantly expensive then yes I think we probably do need something. The taxpayers won’t want us to have some luxurious new plane, but I certainly think it’s striking that we don’t seem to have access to such a thing at the moment.”
The aircraft of 32 Squadron are available to VIP passengers only if not needed for military operations. Two flights within the squadron operate the British Aerospace 146 and AgustaWestland AW109. In addition, a refitted Voyager is usually tasked with flying senior ministers to global events and summits and is still fully capable of its original role as a tanker.
The Voyager aircraft has been refitted at a cost of about £10m, in order to save about £775,000 per year as the plane will be cheaper than chartering flights, delivering significant savings for the tax payer.
The Airbus A330 Voyager is an aerial refuelling tanker aircraft with transport capabilities and is based on the civilian Airbus A330. The multi-role A330 tanker/transport has been ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Air Force, United Arab Emirates Air Force, Royal Saudi Air Force and Republic of Singapore Air Force.
Official flights using either Royal Squadron planes or long haul charter, cost on average £6,700 per flying hour while using a Voyager aircraft would cost £2,000. It would be available for refuelling when it wasn’t in use.
The refit involved 58 business seats being fitted with the Ministry of Defence saying this will “allow it to transport sizeable business delegations”.
A government spokesperson said:
“As part of the government’s defence review, we have been looking at ways to make better use of the RAF fleet to transport senior ministers and consequently deliver savings for taxpayers. We have decided to adapt one of our existing Voyager aircraft so that, in addition to its primary air tanking role, it can transport Ministers and it will also be available for the Royal family to use.”