Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Emperor Akihito will soon say goodbye to the Boeings that have flown them on numerous flights to different destinations. The government is set to look for the latest and most fuel-efficient aircraft to fly their heads of state as they will soon be retiring the current ones being used.
With this in mind, two of the world’s leaders in aircraft manufacturing are now in fierce competition to equip the government with their airplane needs. U.S-based Boeing has released the huge 777-300 model while Europe’s Airbus has the latest A350. The government currently has two Boeing 747s that have been in official use and managed by Self Defense Forces since 1991. However, with its poor fuel efficiency against the ever-increasing petroleum prices, it was decided that the time has come to find a replacement. The government hopes to make a decision by summer of this year to give ample time for customization. The target date to start flying the aircraft is by 2019, considering the current planes’ maintenance contract under Japan Airlines end by 2018.
A budget of 135.5 billion yen has been allotted for the two new aircrafts for a period of five years. Customization of the plane will take years as the planes are required to house a VIP room, office and area for the attendants. It must also have provision for Internet access in-flight and power outlets for all seats inside. The planes must be able to fly directly from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to the East Coast in the United States. While many observers think Boeing will win the competition with its current track record for the 747s in use, some are not dismissing the Airbus immediately. However, an official from the Defense Ministry, who manages the planes, will not use bias when making a decision. “We are not favoring any particular manufacturer,” he said.
[viaBoei The Asahi Shimbun]
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