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Amid controversy, first Indonesian presidential plane arrives

Publication Date : 11-04-2014

 

Indonesia’s first presidential aircraft finally arrived at Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force Base in Jakarta on Thursday after years of controversy and delays since its procurement in 2009.

The Boeing Business Jet 2 (BBJ2), based on the Boeing 737-800 narrowbody airliner, traveled for four days from Delaware, where US aircraft manufacturer Boeing completed its cabin interior and self-defense system works, with stops in Wellington, Sacramento, Honolulu and Guam before landing in Jakarta.

The new plane is a VVIP aircraft with a US$27 million cabin interior deemed by the State Secretariat as “designed to accommodate the President’s needs”. According to the State Secretariat, the aircraft has a master bedroom equipped with a bathroom, four VVIP meeting rooms, two VVIP state rooms, 12 executive areas and 44 staff areas.

With a maximum capacity of 67 passengers, the aircraft can accommodate President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his extensive entourage.

The most talked-about feature of the plane, however, is not its luxurious interior but its light blue-white livery, which has been widely criticised by Netizens.

“About the color, it was not the President who made the decision and why is it being questioned anyway?” State Secretary Sudi Silalahi said Thursday during the airplane’s welcoming ceremony.

“The camouflage color is for security reasons. Almost half of the participants of a meeting [at his office] chose that color out of 14 options.”

He also argued that the color was also similar to the uniform of the Air Force. The aircraft will be operated by the 17th VVIP Squadron.

After obtaining certification from the Defense Ministry in the coming days and a test flight set to be held next week, the aircraft will be ready to be used by Yudhoyono — who has been flying on a jet leased from flag carrier Garuda Indonesia for more than nine years of his presidency — for his travels around the country and overseas.

However, Sudi said Yudhoyono would have little time to enjoy the perk. “The focus is for the next president, who will use it more frequently. The current President will probably only be able to use it two or three times,” he said.

He later reiterated the same statement his office has frequently repeated since the procurement plan was submitted to the House of Representatives in 2009, saying that buying the aircraft, priced at $91.2 million at that time, was less costly than renting one every time the President traveled.

“We have calculated the savings; we will save at least 114.2 billion rupiah (a year in the coming years,” Sudi said. “Moreover, we will definitely be proud to have our own presidential plane after 69 years of independence. This is [also] of course due to state finances that we were able to manage [the procurement].”

However, Yudhoyono did not attend Thursday’s ceremony, which was held only a day after the legislative election.

“Why didn’t the President receive the plane at the ceremony? [Well], the procurement of the aircraft and its funds are under the State Secretariat,” Sudi said.

The BBJ2 can fly up to 10 hours non-stop. It has a service ceiling of 41,000 feet, a cruising speed of 0.785 Mach and a maximum speed of 0.85 Mach. It can also reach a maximum cruising range of 4,620 nautical miles or 8,556 kilometers.

With its $4.5 million self-defense system, the Air Force could ensure the safety of the President, Air Force chief of staff Air Chief Marshal Ida Bagus Putu Dunia said.

Garuda president director Emirsyah Satar refused to name the leasing rate but said that “having a presidential aircraft will indeed make the President’s travels more efficient” and impromptu presidential travels would no longer hinder Garuda’s commercial flights.

Emirsyah also revealed Sudi’s plan to carry out the aircraft’s maintenance work at the Garuda Maintenance Facility.

President of Boeing Southeast Asia, Ralph L. Boyce, said that with its powerful performance and long-range capabilities, the BBJ2 was an “efficient travel connectivity tool” and that its purchase was fitting considering Indonesia was the largest archipelago in the world.

Boyce was the US ambassador to Jakarta from 2001 until 2004.


 

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