The Presidential “flying circus”


An already financially stressed SA Air Force (SAAF) is going to have to find an extra R2 million in the wake of what can only be called the “President’s flying circus”.

Gauteng Afrikaans daily Beeld reports a minor technical problem with a fuel delivery component aboard Inkwazi, the Presidential Boeing bizjet operated by 21 Squadron, saw another three similar aircraft brought in and alerted at short notice to bring President Jacob Zuma back to South Africa following an official visit to Russia.

South Africa’s first citizen was originally due back at AFB Waterkloof on Tuesday at around 07h00 but the fuel feed problem on Inkwazi meant the aircraft would have to make two stops on the return leg, one in Turkey and the other in Uganda. The original flight plan would have seen only one stop in the Turkish city of Ankara.

Two stops were apparently unacceptable to the Presidential party and another aircraft was chartered from Longtail Aviation registered in the Bahamas. It departed Dubai for Moscow as per charter arrangements but the flight from the Russian capital could not take off from the Russian capital because the aircrew of the Longtail aircraft had exceeded their flight hours and a certain amount of out of cockpit rest is called for in terms of ICAO regulations.

At this stage, the paper reports, the South African ambassador in Moscow took over flight arrangements from the air force and a third aircraft was brought in to fly Zuma home. The ownership of where this aircraft came from was not known and it appears this was the aircraft that landed at AFB Waterkloof after the Presidential jet touched down.

While the Bahamian registered aircraft was not utilised the SAAF will still have to pay around R2 million for it.

Attempts to obtain clarity and comment were passed between the Presidency, the SA Air Force and the Department of Defence. All were unsuccessful by the time the newspaper went to print.

The only indication all was not running smoothly came from the Presidency in a terse statement indicating Zuma would not be attending a Department of Home Affairs event because he was “due back later than expected from Russia”.