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‘Blair Force One’ jets are to be privatised Print

July 09, 2006 - Dominic O’Connell

THE government is to invite bids to run “Blair Force One”, a new fleet of aircraft to carry the royal family, ministers and other VIPs.

The new service is to be set up after a report by Sir Peter Gershon, the former GEC executive who has advised ministers on a number of policy issues. Details of the plan, and the private-sector involvement envisaged, have emerged with the recent publication of the full report on the Cabinet Office website.


Royal and ministerial flights are currently run by a special unit of the RAF, the Royal Squadron, commonly known as the Queen’s Flight. Gershon concluded that “despite the evident commitment, dedication and desire of RAF personnel ... the Royal Squadron is unable to meet the current requirements with the resource available”.

But doing away with dedicated aircraft and using only chartered planes would bring security risks, Gershon said.

Instead, he recommended a new, privately operated service that would have two dedicated aircraft — a converted commercial airliner for long-haul trips and large parties, and a smaller business jet. Both aircraft would be second hand, and leased rather than owned outright.

The review found that the service was more suited to a commercial than a military operation. “The review recommends that the private sector be invited to bid to provide this service against commercial standards and targets. Any such competition would ensure that, whether the aircraft are operated in-house by the RAF or outsourced in the private sector, the customers can enjoy a guaranteed level of reliability that matches commercial standards.”

Aviation-industry sources said there was likely to be a call for bids in about three months. It is thought a wide variety of companies will tender for the work. 

 
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