Peter Le Franchi/CANBERRA

The Australian Government has selected Qantas to replace Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)VIP transport aircraft with a new leased fleet, to enter service in 2002. The aircraft package comprises two Boeing Business Jets for international travel and three Bombardier Challenger 604s for domestic flights.


Contract talks start this month, with the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) aiming for a deal by early next year. DoD officials say the final contract is expected to incorporate work packages to Australian industry worth A$100 million ($58 million) over the 12-year lease period.

Announcing the decision, defence minister John Moore said that the range of aircraft solutions considered, "the leasing package offered by Qantas best meets the air transport needs of the government and [DoD]".

A rival proposal headed by the Australian Westpac banking group and supported by Hawker Pacific offered Airbus A319s and options on a choice of Challenger 604, Falcon 900 and Dassault Falcon 2000 aircraft. The Qantas bid included Falcon 900s as an alternative to the Challenger 604.

Tenders for the requirement were first released in February last year, with source selection expected nearly a year ago. Australian DoD officials acknowledge that while the decision has taken longer than planned, the result is a "good compromise" intended to "try and keep the costs comparable with the existing fleet".

The new aircraft will be operated by the RAAF's No 34 Squadron, based in Canberra and operating six leased Falcon 900A aircraft.

The arrangement with Qantas will also see the withdrawal of two B707 VIP aircraft based at Richmond, west of Sydney.

Source: Flight International