Canadians got their first look Wednesday inside the VIP plane that will carry the Prime Minister and Governor General on their trips around the world.
The eight-year-old Airbus A-330-200, which the government bought last year from Kuwait Airways, is also expected to transport King Charles to Canada for his first visit as sovereign.
The official aircraft, known to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as Airbus 02, arrived in Canada on August 31. It has been parked at the Canada Reception Center next to the main terminal at Ottawa International Airport.
It replaced the Airbus 01, a smaller Airbus A-310 originally built for the now-defunct Canadian airline Wardair in 1987.
Canada has purchased five used A-330s from Kuwait Airways for about $50 million each, a price well below the cost of a new plane.
The Airbus 02 is the first of those to be delivered; A second A-330 is expected to arrive this winter, with three more to follow. The four non-VIP aircraft will be used for military transport and to refuel RCAF and other NATO aircraft in flight.
The government has also contracted the military arm of Airbus to build another four new aircraft to transport Canadian Armed Forces personnel across Canada and around the world, and to refuel in the air.
While the VIP fleet is based in Trenton, Ont. In the past, the new planes will be parked in two locations, one in the east and one in the west. The Department of National Defense has not yet announced where the plane will be based.
The A-330s are substantially larger than older aircraft and will require new hangars.
Greater range, better protection
The new planes also have a range 4,000 kilometers longer than the old jet, enough to fly from Ottawa to Tokyo non-stop.
Canadians flying to Asia with Air Canada don’t think about direct flights from Toronto or Vancouver to major Asian cities. The last three prime ministers, for their part, have had to stop in Alaska to refuel during their official trips.
The RCAF tells CBC the entire A-330 fleet will be equipped with a “self-protection system” to defend against missile attacks.
Kuwait Airways has released photos of its A-330 fleet showing a three-class layout familiar to international air travelers.
Early Wednesday morning, journalists invited to inspect the new plane ahead of its first official flight (which would take Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the APEC summit in San Francisco) discovered that the design had not changed since the plane was acquired from Kuwait Airways.
Earlier this year, a senior Canadian government official told Breaking: that a VIP cabin would eventually be installed on the new plane.
The outgoing Airbus 01, which is still used by the RCAF as a means of transport, has a dated interior from the early 1990s.
Airbus 01 passenger seats do not have AC power outlets. RCAF crew had to place power bars along the floor to allow passengers to work on their laptops. In-flight films were projected on the bulkhead wall of the aircraft cabin.
More room to move
Passengers traveling on government business are expected to be dressed in full business attire when disembarking. The Airbus 02 has an accessible bathroom, allowing passengers a little more space to change clothes.
The accessible bathroom is also expected to be very popular with security personnel who need a place to adjust their body armor.
Journalists who visited Airbus 02 on Wednesday reported that the aisles remain too narrow for a standard wheelchair. The RCAF says it has a compact wheelchair model for use on the plane.
They also reported that the plane’s in-flight entertainment system and Wi-Fi in the back of the plane are still not working. Senior government officials are expected to have access to Wi-Fi during the flight.
The Airbus 01 from the 1980s was starting to show its age. It became more difficult to maintain as parts became scarce.
In September, Trudeau was delayed for two days in Delhi due to an aircraft maintenance issue at the end of the G20 Summit.
A part of the plane had to be shipped from Canada before Airbus 01 could make the long journey home.
Airbus A-330s have been used for many years by Air Canada and Air Transat.
An Air Transat A-330 glided with no working engines toward a safe landing in the Azores after a fuel problem caused it to run out of gas in 2001.
The A-330 is also used by many world leaders, including the leaders of France, the United Kingdom and Australia.