Akufo-Addo visited Burkina Faso using the Falcon 900

Aerospace expert Dr Akparibo Yakubu says the current presidential aircraft, Falcon 900, is capable of making non-stop trips to almost all of Europe.

He described as untenable, government’s justification for hiring a luxury private jet for use by President Akufo-Addo during his recent official visit to some European countries.

Defence Minister Dominic Nitiwul has justified the decision, saying the president’s safety and the aircraft’s capacity were paramount in hiring the aircraft.

He said, “The choice to travel by road, by air or by sea, is a national security imperative and have reason to release the aircraft this particular aircraft to VVIP including ex-presidents to carry out national duties. These VVIPs or Presidential travels is not about aircraft type or even about cost; it’s all about safety.”

The Minister’s explanations were shot down by the North Tongu MP, Okudzeto Ablakwa, who described it as a “cock and bull” story.

According to him, the President could have easily made the trip using the Falcon 900 without any risk to his safety.

He said, “After eight hours, you need to refuel. From Accra to France is six and half hours. So he could have gone to France directly without requiring refuel. From France to Belgium, you could have flown directly without refueling. The challenge would be from France to South Africa that’s 11 hours. With that you need one stop to refuel.

He added, “We have used the presidential jet with President Mahama and President Mills, and when it’s time for refuelling, you stay in the aircraft, and it’s refuelled. It doesn’t even take an hour, so the excuse we have been given today that because of Covid, it will take two hours and the President will have to be out there and exposed to Covid is not tenable. It’s a cock and bull story; we are not buying it.”

On his part, Dr Yakubu speaking with JoyNews further gave credence to Mr Ablakwa’s assertions.

According to him, the Falcon 900 is a capable vehicle to have taken the President all the way to Europe and that the renting of the G-KELT private jet could have been avoided.

He explained that, “the current presidential jet, the Falcon 900 can make such a trip. I don’t know why the President didn’t use it. And I don’t know if it had technical issues like they had a problem in Washington before.

“But if not, that aircraft can make such a trip. If you look at the range of the Falcon 900, it’s about 4000 miles for the aircraft to fly without stopping to refuel.

“So if you want to do Accra Paris, you can do that with the Falcon 900 without stopping to refuel. So our current presidential jet can make such a trip. To go to Europe with that aircraft, you don’t have to stop to refuel because, as I said, the range of the aircraft is about 4,400 miles.

“To go to the United States, you may have to refuel. Normally we use similar aircrafts for airbus so we use an aircraft called the Challenger.

“The Challenger, when it leaves here, normally goes through Canary Islands and then stops there to refuel and then from the Canary Islands, it flies all the way to Canada.”

The Finance Minister, meanwhile, is yet to address Parliament on the President’s travel expenses.