Polish state considers Tu-154 fate after chartering LOT jets

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Poland's defence ministry is considering the future of its second Tupolev Tu-154M after opting to charter two LOT Embraer 175s for government transport.

The ministry had a pair of Tu-154s, one of which was the aircraft lost in the fatal landing accident at Smolensk on 10 April, which killed all 96 people on board, including President Lech Kaczynski. It has contracted with LOT to use two Embraer jets - which are being repainted in the presidential wing colour scheme - up to 2013. Both are being put into operation this month.

The cost of the four-year charter contract, says the defence ministry, amounts to 25 million zlotys ($7.5 million) per year.

Undersecretary of state for defence Marcin Idzik says there are three scenarios under consideration for the second Tu-154, which is due to return to the fleet in July. The government could continue to use it for VIP transport, convert the jet to a military transport, or sell it to the country's military property agency.

Last year the ministry had been looking at acquiring new medium-sized aircraft but says it was prevented from proceeding by the global economic crisis.

As a result of the Tu-154 accident, says Idzik, the ministry will have to look at the possibility of acquiring larger types.