A double bed, en suite shower and lavatory, wardrobe, safe, multimedia system including 42-inch screen and two oxygen bottles as part of the resuscitation system – this is what the new aircraft for the prime minister of Israel will include.
For many years, the prime minister has flown overseas in an aircraft that has undergone rapid conversion into an “official” plane. This has included the removal of seats and the installment of a bed for the use of the prime minister and his wife. There is no aircraft permanently on call for the prime minister, but a plane is refitted each time by whichever airline has won the tender issued for any given trip abroad.
However, it has recently been decided that the time has come for the prime minister and president to have a dedicated aircraft. The accountant general has published the specifications of such an aircraft and asked airlines if they are able to meet the requirements.
There are three options for a prime ministerial aircraft. The first would be a dedicated aircraft for use only by VIPs. The second would be an aircraft in regular use but always on call for government needs. The third option would be a long term agreement with an airline which would prepare one of its planes upon receiving 72 hours’ notice, though not necessarily the same aircraft each time.
The option of an Air Force plane will also be checked. In this case, the plane would be in regular use but be available on 24 hours’ notice. In the last three options, experts say, the equipment required by the prime minister would be installed on boards which can easily be put in the plane after some of the regular seats have been removed. They added that a dedicated plane for VIPs would raise flight hour prices to “astronomical” heights, so it is expected that one of the other options will be chosen which allows the aircraft to be used commercially when not in use by the government.
Range of at least 10,000 km
The plane will be required to fly between 15 and 25 VIP flights annually. It must be rapidly available for the next 15 years and be capable of flying a range of at least 10,000 km (6,214 miles) – in other words, a direct flight to Washington with no stops along the way. It is expected that the plane will be a Boeing 767, which has a wide fuselage and a long range.
The plane will be divided into different sections. A VIP section will be prepared at the front for the prime minister or president, which will include a bedroom and office, and a section similar to the first class section of a commercial jet with 20 reclining seats for the entourage. Another section will include economy-class seats with some 80 seats for security personnel, junior assistants etc.
The aircraft will be protected by an anti-missile system. The communications system will be fully protected and enable members of the entourage to contact targets all over the world. When the prime minister is using the communications system, at least two members of the entourage will be able to participate in the conversation like video conferencing.
Satellite communication will enable access to the internet. It may also be possible to install a conference table for up to eight people.
Unlike in a regular jet, which usually has a curtain separating the economy from the business class, this plane will have secure partitions between the sections to ensure privacy for the prime minister.
Companies submitting proposals to the tender must also give estimated costs for various destinations: the US, Europe and Egypt. Companies submitting proposals for a dedicated aircraft must submit them by October 28.
Companies known to be interested include Israir, Arkia and the new airline LeadAir. Some figures from the business sector who are not currently in the airline industry are also showing an interest, so the tender may get a wide range of responses.