Published on November 29th, 2016 | by Jim Lee0
Polish Government sets in motion measures to upgrade its VIP aircraft fleet as Foreign Affairs Minister visits Dublin
The recent visit to Ireland on 23rd and 24th November, of Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Witold Waszczykowski and his use of one of his Government’s two Embraer ERJ-175LR VIP aircraft, gives us an opportunity to review the present Polish VIP fleet, and look at recently announced plans, to dramatically improve the number and type of aircraft available.
Minister Waszczykowski arrived in Dublin on 23rd November at 16:35, on board Embraer ERJ-175LR, SP-LIH, using the call-sign LOT7056. The aircraft remained in Dublin for the duration of the Minister’s two day visit. On the Wednesday evening, following his arrival, the Minister met representatives of the Polish-Irish community at the Polish ambassador’s residence, Ailesbury Road, on the Southside of Dublin.
On the following day, Minister Waszczykowski met with the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charles Flanagan. The two Foreign Ministers discussed the warm bilateral relationship between Ireland and Poland, including possibilities for further cooperation. They exchanged views on the EU-UK relationship and on global issues, including Syria, Russia, Ukraine and migration. He also discussed with the Minister for Education and Skills Richard Burton, the possibility of introducing the Polish language into Irish schools and increasing the reach of Polish education. Polish people account for the largest immigrant group in Ireland, estimated at 150,000.
Apart from these key Ministerial meetings, the Foreign Affairs Minister’s agenda included a keynote speech to the Dublin Institute of International and European Affairs, followed by a meeting with former Irish ambassadors to Poland. The Minister also visited the headquarters of Google, where he met its Central and Eastern Europe managers, as well as Polish staff of its Dublin-based office.
Finally, the Minister laid flowers at the monument to Countess Constance Markievicz in St Stephen’s Green Park.
Following the completion of his visit, Minister Waszczykowski departed Dublin on the evening of Thursday 24th November, at 18:47, using the call-sign LOT7056.
Current Polish Government aircraft
SP-LIH is one of two Embraer ERJ-175LRs leased from the Polish Airlines, LOT and operated directly by the General Command of the Armed Forces, Dowództwo Generálne Rodzajów SIL Zbrojnych (DGRSZ). The other aircraft is SP-LIG, which was delivered to the Polish Government on 28th May 2010. The aircraft was originally delivered to LOT on 30th September 2009 and arrived in Warsaw on 2nd October 2009. SP-LIH was transferred to the Polish Government on 1st September 2010, having being delivered to LOT on the same dates as SP-LIG. The lease arrangement for the two aircraft is due to end in December 2017.
The aircraft are based at Warsaw – Okęcie, which is the military part of the National Frédéric Chopin Airport in Warsaw. They replaced the previous VIP aircraft operated by the 36th Special Regiment of Aviation Transport, or 36 Specjalny Pułk Lotnictwa Transportowego (36.SPLT). 36.SPLT was disbanded on 1st January 2012 as a direct result of the tragic accident with the units Tupolev Tu-154M ‘101’ on 10th April 2010, in which 96 people were killed, including the nation’s then-president, Lech Kaczyński (see here).
The Tupolev Tu-154M was one of two operated by the Polish Air Force from 1990, together with a number of Yakovlev Yak-40 and PZL M28 Bryza fixed-wing aircraft, Mil Mi-8, PZL W-3 Sokół and Bell 412 helicopters, which were by used 36.SPLT. The helicopters were assigned to the newly formed 1.Baza Lotnictwa Transportowego (1.BLTr), except for the 412, which was handed over to the Police. The remaining Tu-154M ‘102’, and the four remaining Yak-40s were retired and put up for sale and are currently in storage.
1.BLTr now consists of several M-28B’s, four Mil Mi-8’s and five PZL W-3 Sokół helicopters, the last of which was delivered on 23th December 2013 and were intended as a replacement for the Mi-8s.
Deputy Minister of National Defence announces VIP Aircraft Tender process
On 30th August 2016, the Deputy Minister of National Defence, Bartosz Kownacki, posted a publication notice in the Official Journal of the European Union, as part of the procedural requirement for a public tender process for the delivery of VIP passenger aircraft, to transport Government Ministers and the President, along with most important government officials, and senior military commanders in the country.
Essentially the tender set out the requirements for the procurement and acquisition of two types of aircraft; small business jets with no fewer than 14 seats in business class configuration and a range of at least 2,700 nm (5,000 km), and capable of flying from Poland to the U.S. nonstop with eight passengers and three medium aircraft, one pre-owned to be delivered by mid-November 2017, and two new aircraft to be delivered by mid-November 2020, and mid-November 2021. The pre-owned aircraft should have at least 132 seats in business and economy classes and be capable of flying from Poland to the U.S. with a single refuelling. The new aircraft should have 65 seats in VIP class with a range of at least 2,900 nm (5,370 km), and capable of flying nonstop from Poland to the U.S. with 30 passengers. They are to be equipped with self-defence systems, as well as secure communication links and to be delivered with associated logistics’ packages, training and technical documentation.
Deputy Minister Kownacki said that the acquisition decision was made very quickly by the Government of Prime Minister Beata Szydło. He added that the decision will be implemented on the basis of a special government programme. In just two months “we were able to carry out the entire procedure that has allowed for the preparation of documents for the announcement of the tender, within the framework of the Ministry of National Defence,” he added.
He expected that the choice of the best offer, and the contract signing for the ‘medium’ sized aircraft, would occur in the first quarter of 2017, “due to the much more complicated subject of the contract and procurement method”. The contract will include training of air and ground crew and initial maintenance support and the aircraft “will be able to land at military airports”.
“We want to maintain and implement the flights by military personnel from the transport aviation base, which is located at Okęcie Airport in Warsaw. The comprehensive concept is being prepared, taking into account the associated pilot training programs for these tasks. The Polish Defence Ministry would like to receive one pre-owned medium-sized aircraft by the end of 2017. It will be used for the training of crews and VIP transport until delivery of the new aircraft,” he added.
Gulfstream confirms order from the Polish Ministry of National Defence for Gulfstream G550s
On 16th November, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation in an announcement confirmed that the Polish Ministry of National Defence had signed an agreement to purchase two Gulfstream G550 aircraft. It followed an earlier announcement by Deputy Minister Kownacki on 24th October that the two aircraft would be operated by the Polish Air Force, in the VIP transportation role.
The G550 is the most widely used in-production Gulfstream model for special missions and government applications. The aircraft’s ability to fly long ranges at altitudes higher than commercial traffic makes the G550 ideal for government use. With its 99.9% National Business Aviation Association dispatch reliability rating, the G550 also offers dependable transport with low maintenance requirements, regardless of configuration. The cabin’s industry-leading quiet sound levels and low cabin altitude help reduce fatigue among passengers and crew.
The two new aircraft will be specifically configured for VIP transport and will be delivered by 15th August 2017. The G550 is particularly suitable for its new role having the longest range in its class and has achieved more than 50 city pair speed records. With eight passengers, the G550 can fly nonstop from Warsaw to Los Angeles or Tokyo.
“With its reliability, efficiency and durability, the G550 is a valuable tool for the Polish government,” said Mark Burns, president, Gulfstream. “Gulfstream has more experience in producing and supporting government and special mission aircraft than any other business jet manufacturer.”
Gulfstream has produced special mission aircraft since 1967, beginning with a GI used by the U.S. Navy for navigator training. Today, aircraft are configured for head-of-state and VIP transport, airborne early warning, medical evacuation, high-altitude atmospheric research, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Nearly 200 Gulfstream aircraft are supporting governments in more than 35 countries around the world, including the U.S. military.
In his announcement, Deputy Minister Kownacki said that only two companies had bid for the tender, but only the Gulfstream bid met all the formal requirements, including the offer to deliver both aircraft by 15th August 2017. He also confirmed the contract price of 440 million Polish Zloty (around €99.5 million).