Nicknamed “Merkel One” after the German chancellor Angela Merkel, the first of the German Air Force’s three new Airbus A350 executive transport aircraft has arrived at Cologne-Bonn Airport last week, DefPost reported.
The three new aircraft will supplement and strengthen the long-haul fleet of German Federal Ministry of Defence’s (BMVg) Executive Transport Wing/Special Air Mission Wing (FlBschftBMVg). The aircraft will be operated by the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force.
Lieutenant Colonel Jens B, one of the most experienced pilots and flight instructors of the FlBschftBMVg, flew the aircraft to Cologne as commander. He was one of the first pilots to be retrained for the new aircraft type at Lufthansa, Def Post reported.
“The A350 is the best airplane that I have ever flown. It flies faster, higher, further and is the most modern and most economical aircraft in the ready-to-fly fleet,” he said.
This is the world’s first government aircraft of this type and also the world’s first Airbus A350 not to be used in commercial airline service. The aircraft — considered the equivalent to America’s Air Force One — is equipped with a special transitional cabin for political-parliamentary flight operations, DefPost reported.
The range of tasks of the A350 mainly consists of the transport of civilian leaders as well as soldiers. In the future there will also be the possibility of transporting the sick and wounded with intensive medical care. After the acceptance of the aircraft by the FlBschftBMVg in Cologne, the flying and technical staff will receive further training. The aim is to start government flight operations by the end of 2020, DefPost reported.
The new A350s are replacing the two Airbus A340 aircraft of the German Air Force primarily used for political parliamentary flight operations which entered service in 2000. The Airbus A350-900 is a twin-engine long-range wide-body aircraft featuring the highest proportion of carbon fiber composites in the fuselage and wing structure, DefPost reported. The range is around 15,000 kilometers at a cruising speed of 910 km/h.
It was reported that the Ministry of Finance in Berlin budgeted 288 million euros just for the luxurious cabin equipment. There is Premium Echo seating with 76 passenger seats in the rear of the cabin, business class seating for 30 passengers in the middle and VIP seats in the front, for a total of 132 passengers. For the first aircraft, 10+03, the front area was adapted as an interim cabin for the needs of the VIP transport, DefPost reported.
Sources say it also features an advanced 229 million euro “missile defense” system. The next two A350s, with the designation 10+01 and 10+02, will be converted after their production at Airbus’ facility in Toulouse, France at Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg and handed over to FlBschftBMVg in 2022. The effects of the global coronavirus pandemic on the supply chain slightly delayed the planned delivery of the 10+03 to the German Armed Forces, local media reported.