The British government is tightening their belts by giving up Prime Minister David Cameron’s private jet charters and shuttling him around in a Voyager A330 mid-air refueling aircraft. The British “Air Force One” equivalent will still be used to fuel up fighters when it’s not transporting VIPs.
The BBC says Cameron’s flights were costing over $10,000 per airborne hour on “Royal Squadron planes or long haul charter,” but that figure will drop to just $3,000 on the refitted Voyager. That’s reportedly going to save English taxpayers almost $1.2 million a year.
The Royal Air Force says their Voyager A330s have seating for almost 300 people in their standard configuration, though the BBC reports converting the plane to carry Cameron and company will cost about $15 million dollars. The refit is said to include 158 new seats (which must be real nice) and adding facilities for more secure communications.
So I guess England will start reaping the sweet savings from this move in about 13 years.
But even after that all that cost to set the plane up with (presumably) arm chairs and a changing station for Prince George, Cameron’s Voyager is still going to keep its day job as an RAF air-to-air refueler. The jet has a 112 ton fuel capacity and 47-ton freight payload limit, and the RAF isn’t about to let go of that capability just to carry around their boss and the Royal Family.
Interestingly the RAF’s Voyagers are already accustomed to double duty, probably why the plane was selected for Prime Minister transport.
The Royal Air Force says there is “considerable commercial demand” for these planes, so the Voyager builder AirTanker is allowed to lease the jets to other outfits when the military doesn’t need them. Apparently that helps the British Government get a better deal.
The AirTanker Voyagers have stepped up to fill the RAF’s mid-air fueling duties after the retirement of the TriStar K1, which have since been sold off.