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March 25, 2023

Does Romania need new presidential airplane?

The Smolensk plane crash taking the lives of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, of the First Lady and of some other dozens of high officials of the state has brought up the subject of a new presidential aircraft back on the Romanian public agenda. The Boeing 707 President Basescu uses has been in service for a 36 years, ‘faithfully serving’ no less than four different presidents: Nicolae Ceausescu, Ion Iliescu, Emil Constantinescu and the current head of state. Defence Minister Gabriel Oprea told ‘Gandul’ daily yesterday that the Romanian Air Force One ought to be replaced given its ‘security’ shortcomings. ‘The biggest security issue is that, back in the 1970s, such aircraft was not equipped with anti-terrorist devices such as those used to avoid missile. From that point of view, as a NATO member state, Romania should have a modern presidential aircraft, able to offer the required security features’, the minister explained. ‘I am for discussing the acquisition of a new presidential airplane in CSAT, as Romania’s national security is at stake’, Oprea also told the source.

The topic of a new plane for the president is not really new, as it was discussed some three years ago when it generated a ‘political mini-scandal’.

In 2007, the Presidential Administration was showing the public documents stating that the purchase of the special aircraft was an idea of the Ministry of Defence that had received PM Tariceanu’s approval in May the same year, while the president was suspended.

After being put on CSAT’s agenda at the end of June 2007, several PNL and PSD members became extremely critical of President Basescu’s intention of green-lighting the acquisition, as long as the EUR 300 M – the cost of the planes – would have been better spent on ‘improving the livelihood’ of retired people. The project was eventually declined.

Realitatea TV says the presidential Boeing has suffered a number of transformations in order to become fit for flying a president. The initial 180 seats have become 60 to allow for setting up a small office for the president, a bedroom with two beds and a bathroom. As for equipment and options, the same source says there is no real-time TV, internet, quality telephony, an anti-ballistic system or rooms for ministers. Realitatea TV also claims that special flight operator Romavia is building a hangar at Otopeni for a used Boeing 757 it intends to lease for EUR 21 M. The cost of equipping it with communications, safety, security and comfort features is of minimum EUR 3 M.

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