French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s Airbus A330-200 dubbed “Air Sarko One” has just been taken on its first test flight in Bordeaux, southwestern France, with all internal fittings due for completion by October.
“Air Sarko One” was approved earlier this month in a low key vote. Reserved for use by Sarkozy and his entourage, the A330 has been bought second-hand from the Air Caraibes airline and is undergoing a multimillion-pound renovation.
The specially upholstered Airbus A330-200, will also include a 12-man meeting room, 60 business class seats, top-grade encrypted communications systems, a reinforced fuselage and missile decoy system.
While still not quite on the scale of Air Force One 747-200B, when finished the 60 metres (190ft) long and 17 metres high A330, is expected to have a private wing for the head of state, complete with office, bedroom and bathroom, a meeting room for his staff, and seats for 60 people. The A330-200 was developed to compete with the Boeing 767-300ER.
The French leader is understood to have long envied the luxurious conditions in which Barack Obama, the US President flies across the world in his Boeing 747-200B, and has complained that his two smaller Airbus A319s lacked the necessary presidential stature.
“Air Sarko One” as the plane has been dubbed, will have a wingspan a good two feet longer than the US model.
On the other hand, Mr. Sarkozy’s €176 million (£147 million) purchase and refit of the jet from tourist airline Air Caraïbes has raised eyebrows as the winds of austerity blow through Europe and other leaders are reining in their perks.