By OKECHUKWU PEACE
President Muhammadu Buhari will save Nigeria several billions after he directed that nine of the VIP transport aircraft under the presidential fleet should be sold.
Thisday reported that an aviation source, who is aware of the directive to sell the aircraf which include a number of serviceable and unserviceable aircraft that need to be disposed of in order to reduce the amount spent by the federal government for aircraft maintenance annually.
Averagely, the federal government has spent over N12 billion annually for the maintenance of the presidential fleet.
The Nigerian Air Force aircraft, is believed to be one of the largest in Africa and the third largest in Nigeria after Arik Air and Aerocontractors.
Although information on the exact size of the fleet is treated as classified information, the fleet, according to aviation sources, is believed to comprise about 16 aircraft, chief of which is the Boeing 738 BBJ, NAF 001 or Eagle One, used by the president for his travels.
In addition to the Boeing 733 reserved for the president, the fleet boasts two Gulfstream 550 jets. The Gulfstream 550 can seat eight to 18 passengers, depending on the configuration, and has a cruiser range of 12,501 kilometres or 6,750 nautical miles. A new luxury Gulfstream 550 would cost an estimated $53.5 million.
According to Wikipedia, other planes in the Nigerian Air Force VIP transport fleet include two Dassault Falcon 7X jets, one Hawker Siddeley 125-800 and one Cessna 550 Citation II.
Information from a Nigerian web portal and Nigerian Air Force sources further revealed that the fleet also boasts two Dassault Falcon 900 jets, a Gulfstream IVSP, a Gulfstream V, a Dornier Do 228, which can carry 19 passengers, one Beechcraft King Air B200, and three AugustaWestland AW139 helicopters.
Sources said each of the two Dassault Falcon 7X jets were purchased for $51.1 million in 2010 while the Gulfstream 550 cost $53.3 million.
Aviation experts also put the average price of the Falcon 900 at $35 million; Gulfstream IVSP at $40 million; Gulfstream V at $45 million; Cessna Citation at $7 million; and the Hawker Siddeley at $15 million.