South Korea Will Lease A Boeing 747-8I From Korean Air For VIP Transport

The South Korean equivalent of ‘Air Force One’ is getting an upgrade. Currently, the country’s presidential jet is a Boeing 747-400. However, come October 2021, this will be replaced by a 747-8 leased from flag carrier Korean Air.

Korean Air, Boeing 747, Retirement
The new jet for South Korea’s president will come from Korean Air. Photo: tjdarmstadt via Wikimedia

A five-year contract

According to The Korea Herald, following three unsuccessful bids, Korean Air secured the contract as a solo bidder for the five-year contract. This will see Korean Air lease a Boeing 747-8 as the next presidential jet. The lease was signed on Friday and disclosed by South Korea’s defense ministry.

This five-year contract has a value of ₩300 billion ($242.3 million) and will see Korean Air provide the following services as per the agreement:

  • Pilots,
  • Crew members,
  • Mechanics,
  • As well as a back-up plane of the same type

Officials say that three-fifths of the total contract value is budgeted for maintenance services. The price of the plane itself accounts for one-third of the sum.

The contract amount is over twice the value of the previous five-year contract for a 747-400, which was pegged at ₩141 billion – roughly $114.5 million.

17 months to go

The transition from the old 747-400 to the new 747-8 won’t happen overnight. In fact, the new plane will begin its presidential role in November 2021. Leading up to that time, the selected aircraft will need to be retrofitted and go through necessary inspections.

Korean presidential jet
South Korea’s current presidential jet is a Boeing 747-400. Photo: Jeroen Stroes Aviation Photography via Wikimedia Commons

This should have happened sooner according to The Korea Herald, who says that the lease period for the current presidential 747-400 was going to expire in March 2020 after five-years of operation. However, this was extended until October 2021 as the government failed to find a new contractor in time.

Leading up to the November 2021 entry into service, the 747-8 will be equipped with various security and communication devices. Similar to what we know of the United States’ Air Force One (VC-25A/modified 747-200) this presidential aircraft will also have special hardware to improve its defense against outside attacks, such as missiles.

“The defense ministry will do its best to thoroughly manage the business to make sure key government figures can stably carry out their duties,” -South Korean Ministry of Defense via The Korea Herald

South Korea Will Lease A Boeing 747-8I From Korean Air For VIP Transport
The President of the United States will also have the 747-8 as the new presidential jet in the future. Photo: Boeing

Lease over purchase

Apparently, there was some speculation that the South Korean government was eyeing the purchase of a new aircraft. However, a ministry official said that while purchasing an aircraft is not currently being considered, the government isn’t ruling it out completely…

“Purchasing a presidential plane is an issue that can surely be considered, given our national status. Though we are not looking into it right now, when there is a change in circumstances, such as the available budget, I do think that we need to review a purchase,”

What do you think would be the ideal presidential jet for the South Korean government? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Simple Flying contacted Korean Air for comment. However, no response was received before publication.