Nicolas Sarkozy’s dream of having his own presidential jet to rival America’s iconic Air Force One is about to come true. The specially upholstered Airbus A330-200, dubbed the Air Sarko One, has just been taken on its first test flight in Bordeaux, southwestern France. The government has reportedly spent £150 million ($238 million) on the purchase and refit of the jet from tourist airline Air Caraïbes.
The aircraft which is expected to be complete and ready for delivery by this October, will have a wingspan a good two feet longer than the US model. Made to cater to every need of the President, the aircraft comes complete with a bedroom, air filter system so he can smoke cigars.
It has also been claimed that Mr Sarkozy had wanted a full-sized presidential bathtub on the plane but he was told that it could prove a problem as under heavy turbulence the bathwater may overflow and seep into the air craft at the risk of sparking short circuits. The president was told he would have to settle for a flood-proof hip bath.
Besides these personal amenities for the President, the aircraft will also boast of a 12-man meeting room, 60 business class seats, top-grade encrypted communications systems, a reinforced fuselage and missile decoy system.
Mr Sarkozy has come under criticism for the Air Sarko One weeks after ordering ministers to cut spending and following a string of embarrassing expenses scandals, but Luc Chatel, the government spokesman, said: There is nothing ostentatious, simply a desire to have equipment fitting for the world’s fifth power. He has argued that the cost of new presidential jet will be offset by the sale of two smaller A319s currently used. However, the two medium-range jets are only expected to fetch around €20 million.
Also, a fleet of smaller jets will replace the current Falcon 50 and 900 models at ministers’ disposal. They will include two Falcon 7Xs, models often favoured by the world’s jet set. Presidential air force officials have nicknamed one jet Air Carla One after the French leader’s wife, the former model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.