When President Jacob Zuma and his entourage take off for France next month it will be aboard the latest 21 Squadron acquisition – a “damp lease” Boeing 737 business jet in VVIP configuration due to arrive at AFB Waterkloof within days.
The President has apparently refused in fly in Inkwazi – the BBJ currently operated for him by the SA Air Force (SAAF) – reportedly due to the number of problems experienced with the aircraft.
This has seen him aboard chartered aircraft, including the Fortune Air Boeing 727 (Super 27), in recent times.
defenceWeb has reliably been informed the apparent lack of availability of Inkwazi has resulted in SAAF Chief Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang instituting a board of enquiry. No details of its structure and terms of reference were available at the time of publication.
The trip to France will, by all accounts, be the first time the new arrival flies a South African head of state.
The “damp lease” is for a year and will see a SAAF flight crew aboard as well as cabin crew from 21 Squadron.
As far as next month’s Paris flight is concerned, defenceWeb has also been told that Inkwazi will be used as a “shadow” aircraft in the unlikely event of the newly acquired presidential aircraft, which is apparently eight years old, experiencing problems en route.
The pair of bizjets will be followed to France by 21 Squadron’s Falcon 50 which has been designated to carry Zuma and his official entourage to the Delville Wood memorial, about 140 km from the French capital Paris.
Zuma is due to visit the World War One memorial on July 12.
A Cabinet statement last week said: “While the Delville Wood Memorial is dedicated to South African soldiers, the apartheid government’s policies at the time excluded black South Africans who died during the war while their white counterparts were buried at the Delville Wood Memorial.
“The memorial is undergoing a significant transformation to reflect the historical role played by black South Africans in the First and Second World Wars and to accord them the necessary recognition.”
* This article was corrected to reflect that the Fortune Air aircraft is a Boeing 727 and not a Boeing 737.