The government of Germany has placed a firm order with Airbus for three A350-900 aircraft to be delivered over the next three years. They are the first governmental customer for the type, which will be reconfigured for VIP layout and on board defense prior to delivery.
The Airbus Corporate Jet (ACJ) 350-900 is the business version of the standard A350-900. It’s a huge upgrade compared to the A340s these jets will replace and will add reliability and capacity to the German governmental fleet.
ACJ President Benoit DeForge is quoted by Airways Mag as saying,
“The ACJ350 XWB is the ultimate in modern, long-haul, private jet travel, with the capability to deliver large groups nonstop to the world in unmatched comfort, efficiency and reliability,”
The details of the order
The order of the three A350s was first reported back in February, but today has been converted to a firm order. The order is estimated to be costing the German government in the range of €1.2bn ($1.34bn), making this one of the most expensive governmental purchase in history.
The basic cost of the three A350-900s comes in at around €640m ($714m) but that’s just the start. Refurbishing the cabin to the standard they need is estimated to cost around €288m ($321m), while adding on board defense systems will increase the investment by around €229m ($255m).
The first aircraft will be delivered to the German government in 2020, and the remaining two in 2022. They will be used for a mix of government, troop transport and medical evacuation roles.
Replacements for the A340
The A350-900XWB represents a clear upgrade from the A340s that will be retiring to make room for the new planes. With the new planes, they can transport 25 passengers 11,000 nmi (20,550km) or with the ultra-long range configuration, they can fly for as long as 22 hours.
With this sort of range, de facto leader of the European Union, Angela Merkel, could literally go anywhere on earth without stopping to refuel!
As well as upgrading to the latest technology and specifications with this order, the German government are increasing their corporate jet fleet size too. Previously, they had only two A340s in service. This meant that if one was out of action perhaps due to maintenance issues, there was only one available for use.
We saw the consequence of this back in December last year, when the highly secure A340 named ‘Konrad Adenauer’, had to make an emergency landing. As a result, the passengers on board, which included Angela Merkel, Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz, not to mention numerous bodyguards and aides, had to transfer to a ‘regular’ aircraft in order to make their G20 meeting.
One lucky passenger actually found himself sitting next to the German Chancellor in business class on board an Iberia A330, as they took off for Buenos Aires that day.
Las evidencias 😅 pic.twitter.com/lY2Vd3e5fy
— Agustín Agüero (@AGUSAGUERO20) November 30, 2018
It wasn’t the first time that German diplomats had been stranded as a result of aircraft faults. In October last year, Olaf Scholz was stranded in Indonesia as a result of ‘rodents gnawing at the wires’ on board. And the other A340, named ‘Theodor Heuss’, left President Frank Walter Steinmeier stuck in Addis Ababa for several hours earlier this year.
The additional capacity offered by the three new A350s is one way in which Germany hope to avoid these types of situation in the future. Added to which, the newness of the planes means they are generally more reliable with widespread availability of spare parts.