Manila: After serving Philippine heads of state for nearly four decades, the presidential Fokker F28 jet will be getting a replacement — a brand new Gulfstream 280 executive aircraft.
According to Defence Department spokesperson Arsenio Andolong, the twin-jet Gulfstream G280 is set for delivery by August next year and will primarily serve as a presidential aircraft. It will replace the aging Fokker F28-3000 nicknamed Kalayaan, another twin-engined jet that had been in service since the late 1970s.
The contract for the $37 million (Dh135.9 million) G280 was signed in November 2018 and was acquired through the US Foreign Military Sales, Andolong said.
Faster than the Fokker F28 that it will replace, the G280 is also more luxuriously appointed, has conference tables and can fly up to a distance of 6,667km before refuelling. It has an integral satellite phone among other communications equipment necessary for the president.
“Admittedly it’s a little more well-appointed than your average aircraft but it will carry senior leaders so of course it’s designed to be a little more comfortable. Its advantages are its speed and capability to land on shorter runways, something that cannot be done by our other aircraft at the moment,” Andolong said.
Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte had said that he would be replacing Kalayaan, which is already showing signs of wear and tear through its years in service.
The president said that because Kalayaan’s reliability is increasingly doubtful, oftentimes he had to borrow aircraft from his friends to fly abroad. He just pays for the cost of fuel, he said.
Duterte had also been photographed several times taking commercial flights to Davao City where his family stays.
Kalayaan was acquired by the Philippine government in 1978 and had been used by six presidents — from Ferdinand Marcos Senior to Benigno Aquino III.
Currently, the aircraft is undergoing maintenance in Malaysia. Duterte had said that the Fokker aircraft would be refitted to serve as an air ambulance for government troops.
Andolong said that aside from the G280, the Philippines will also be accepting the delivery of the G295, another Gulfstream aircraft which is bigger in size.
“The G280 flies faster than the G295 and the G280 will primarily serve as platform to carry our senior leaders and commanders in the event of example crisis situation. It can be used by the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] Chief-of-Staff, the Secretary of National Defence, our Major Service Commanders and the President, although you want to use the term lightly or loosely, it is similar to an airborne command post, it would serve that purpose,” Andolong said.
Kalayaan 1 Fokker F28: Years of service - 39 (went into operation with the Presidential Airlift Wing in 1980).
Gulfstream G-280 can carry 12-15 people including a pilot and co-pilot.
Range without refuelling: 6,667 kilometres. It can fly for eight hours non-stop or fly the distance from Singapore to Melbourne. Can also land on shorter runways than similarly-sized aircraft.