Images have emerged of an A321LR bedecked in the same eye-catching livery as the UK’s newest VIP transport plane. The aircraft, owned and operated by Titan Airways, has been painted in the same colors as the UK’s RAF Voyager, signaling it will become the latest VIP transport for the country.
A baby Boris Force One
The UK’s new VIP transport, colloquially dubbed ‘Boris Force One,’ has had a baby. Specifically, an Airbus A321LR has been spotted painted in a perfect replication of the livery adorning the A330-based VIP jet and is set to begin operations for the Royal Air Force soon.
📸: Michael Pearce pic.twitter.com/Y9tJiyrDUl
— BoardingPass (@BoardingPassRO) March 21, 2021
The aircraft, registered G-XATW, is owned and operated by Titan Airways, a British wet leasing and charter flight company based out of London’s Stansted Airport. It was delivered in October last year, as the first of two Airbus A321LR to arrive with the carrier. Titan is seeking to replace its aging 757-200s with these newer, more efficient jets.
It’s likely that the A321LR will be a workhorse for official visits that are shorter in range and require fewer personnel. The RAF Voyager, registered ZZ336, will remain the aircraft of choice for long-haul operations, as well as fulfilling its regular day to day duties as a Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT).
Since its delivery in late October, G-XATW has been stored at London Stansted. In mid-November, it took a short hop over to Bordeaux, home to Sabena Technics – a company with a paint hangar that specializes in the A320 family of aircraft.
On March 8th, it came back to the UK, landing at Norwich late in the afternoon. Readers report that the paintwork was applied here by Satys/Air Livery. Finally, on Friday, the A321LR headed to Titan’s home at London Stansted.
Replacing the BAe 146s?
Currently, the Royal Air Force has two VIP configured BAe 146 aircraft which it uses for short-haul, low capacity operations. It also has a further two BAe 146 configured to carry cargo. These aircraft are all rather old, with the two VIP aircraft clocking in at around 36 years of age.
As reported in UK Defence Journal today, last year there was confirmation from the UK government that replacements for the 146s were under consideration. Gareth Thomas, Member of Parliament for Harrow West had asked when they would be retired, what aircraft would replace them, and if the plan was to use the RAF Voyager for short-haul ops usually undertaken by the BAe 146s.
In response, James Heappey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement said,
“The current fleet of four BAe 146 aircraft are planned to be retired from Service on 31 March 2022. Replacements for those aircraft are currently under consideration as part of normal capability planning. The fleet of 14 Voyager will continue to support the collective Air Transport task including VIP and Command Support Air Transport tasking.”
While it was originally thought that the Global 5000 series would be a good replacement for the 146s, this now seems to not be the case. It also appears that the timeline has shifted forwards somewhat, as the A321LR is painted and ready to begin work. Although it may require some interior adjustments at Titan’s base in London, we could see it in service later this year.
Not for Four Seasons
When G-XATW was delivered, it was sporting an all-black livery and was thought to be heading for operations on behalf of TCS World Travel. TCS is the company that operates private jet tours on behalf of Four Seasons; multi-stop, ultra-luxury tours around the world with prices of around $170,000 per person.
However, it looks as if XATW will never receive its coat of Four Seasons livery, as it is clearly marked to be head to the Royal Air Force now. However, it could be that Four Seasons is destined to get the second A321LR, which is due to arrive with Titan soon. Currently flying under test registration G-OATW but due to become G-GBNI, the second is showing as due for delivery, so should arrive in the next few weeks.