The South African Air Force is to refurbish its sole Dassault Falcon 900 VIP (Very Important Person) transport assigned to 21 Squadron at AFB Waterkloof at an estimated cost of R70 million.
The defence department says the upgrade is scheduled to take place during FY2010/2011.
“At present, no approved Dassault aircraft fitment centre has been identified to undertake the upgrade,” the DoD says.
Responding to a question by Democratic Alliance Member of Parliament David Maynier on 21 Squadron, the DoD said the Falcon 900 was delivered to the squadron in 1991. It was then used by various presidents until the acquisition of a Boeing 737 Business Jet in 2003.
The DoD says the Falcon 900 received an avionics software upgrade in West Palm Beach in the US in 1999. “The interior has not been refurbished since delivery. This aircraft is in dire need of a complete mid-life update, due to fair wear and tear over the years, and to remain in keeping with the latest technology.
“The upgrade will consist of a full interior refurbishment. The engines must be upgraded to improve economy, reduce maintenance costs and improve range. The avionics will consist mainly of a software upgrade to keep abreast of technology. The exterior paint must be done to protect the airframe from the elements and give credence to the status of the passengers,” the DoD says.
“The projected cost is estimated at R70 million. However, the exchange rate could have a bearing on this cost.”
The answer also notes that the BBJ has not been refurbished since being acquired in 2003.
The DoD further said that the squadron’s two Falcon 50’s were upgraded in the 2005/6 financial year at a cost of R70 million each at Duncan Aviation in Nebraska in the US.
“The two Falcon 50 aircraft were delivered to 21 Squadron during 1982 and 1985 respectively. After twenty and twenty three years service respectively, they were in dire need of a complete mid-life update. This was due to fair wear and tear over the years, and to remain in keeping with the latest technology.
“The upgrade consisted of a full interior refurbishment and galley replacement. The engines were upgraded to improve economy, reduce maintenance costs and improve range. The avionics upgrade consisted of a full digital upgrade. The exterior paint was done to protect the airframes from the elements and give credence to the status of the passengers.
Two Cessna Citation aircraft were similarly upgraded in 2000 by Execujet at its Lanseria facility at a a cost of R64 000 per aircraft. The first aircraft was purchased in 1982 and the second was integrated into the squadron from the Venda Defence Force during 1994.
The DoD adds that the industry norm for the refurbishment of corporate (VIP) aircraft interiors is once every five years. “If the interior is not refurbished after five years, aircraft interior fitment centres then recommend a complete interior replacement after eight years.”