Have you been curious about how many times the ‘VIP Voyager’ has actually been used to transport the Prime Minister?
The aircraft was refit in 2016 at a cost of £10 million and has been used 25 times for ministerial travel.
Edward Davey, Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats asked via a written Parliamentary question:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how might flights RAF Voyager was used for ministerial travel in each of the last five years.”
Jeremy Quin, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, replied:
“The number of occasions Voyager ZZ336 has been used on Prime Ministerial or Ministerial business since it was converted for its VIP role is given in the table below.”
Voyager ZZ336 use in VIP role
* 1 April to 22 June 2020
It’s important to note that “ministerial transport” isn’t the only duty of this aircraft. The aircraft is available for refuelling when not in use as a transport, just like the other aircraft in the Voyager fleet.
What is the ‘VIP Voyager’?
In 2016, a £10 million refit of a Voyager jet that involved 58 business seats being fitted with the Ministry of Defence saying that doing so would “allow it to transport sizeable business delegations” was completed. This aircraft is commonly referred to as the ‘VIP Voyager’.
The Voyager aircraft, named ‘Vespina’ (known by its tail code ZZ336), recently completed its latest refurbishment with a new paint job. You can read more about that here.
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.
14 Voyagers leased from the company ‘Air Tanker’ are in the Royal Air Force fleet, nine are in the RAF’s “core” capability and the other five are considered “surge” aircraft and are often leased to airlines when not required. It should be noted that one or two of the surge fleet remain in the Air Tanker livery and are often flown permanently on MoD transport duties to the Falklands, Canada and other locations.
The job of this specific Voyager aircraft, say the MoD, is to provide a secure, cost-effective and suitably profiled transport for Government Ministers and the Royal Family.
It’s important to remember that Ministerial transport isn’t the only duty of this aircraft. The aircraft is available for refuelling when not in use as a transport, just like the other aircraft in the Voyager fleet.
Official flights using either Royal Squadron planes or long haul charter, cost on average £6,700 per flying hour while using a Voyager aircraft costs £2,000 according to the Ministry of Defence.