IT was an impressive sight as it came in to land, gliding in smoothly, this very expensive aeronautical showpiece.
And those who control the public purse, and made the decision to buy it, assembled at Jackson International Airport in Port Moresby yesterday to marvel at this magnificent bird.
“Excellent, very good,” were the first words uttered by Deputy Prime Minister Sir Puka Temu, after an inspection of the Falcon 900 EX aircraft soon after it touched down.
Treasurer Patrick Pruaitch, who accompanied Sir Puka on the inspection, said: “A state-of-the-art
aircraft, very impressive, very good.”
The two were part of a small crowd that gathered at Gate 16 of the old airport to mark the arrival of the Government’s controversial purchase.
The aircraft, fitted with an in-built conference facility, modern entertainment system, and an interior tailor-made for the avid modern traveller, touched down just before 11am yesterday after an eight-hour, 20-minute flight flying at 41,000 feet across the Pacific Ocean from Honolulu in Hawaii. Built in France by Dassault Aviation, the aircraft in its “green state” was flown to Little Rock in Arkansas, USA where it was prepared for Air Niugini at a cost of US$40 million (K112 million), which included the interior, avionics, cabinet-making, entertainment system and specified paint scheme, among other things.
It also has cameras fitted on it to aid navigation in bad weather.
The aircraft has a five-year warranty and during that time, it will be leased to the Government as well as private sector organisations and individuals.
The aircraft is powered by three Honeywell TFE31-60 turbo fan engines and has the capacity to carry 12 passengers in a standard configuration. It is the finest in its class, with its classic tri-jet engines design. It can land at small airports and fly at high attitudes, even on hot days. It is designed to fly 4,500 nautical miles non-stop.
An elated Sir Puka told those who turned up for the occasion that the aircraft, unlike its twinjet competitor, was very versatile and had a significant safety feature, given its ability to fly slower on approach.
“The Falcon 900 EX can land at almost all provincial airports in the country,” Sir Puka said, as if to rebut criticisms that this aircraft could not land in most airstrips in the country.
Air Niugini board chairman Sir James Tjoeng said: “Such an arrangement is the first for this country and I would like to thank the National Government for having the trust and confidence in Air Niugini by allowing us to partner in this commercial arrangement.
“This is a great opportunity for Air Niugini and we will do our best to serve and provide you the exemplary service that you expect,” said Sir James.
The legend ‘Papua New Guinea Vision 2050’ is inscribed on both sides of the fuselage, the irony of this not lost on an observer among the crowd at the airport.
“We have to forego a lot in health and education to buy this aircraft for only a few very privileged people to use,” the person said.