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€8m government jet must be replaced at the end of 2024 'at the latest'


Government jet

Government jet

Government jet

The government jet which is used to fly the Taoiseach, ministers and the President is getting old and must be replaced by the end of next year “at the latest”.

The Learjet is becoming “less reliable” and will have to be replaced by 2024, Tánaiste and Defence Minister Micheál Martin has been told by his officials.

There have been many issues with the Learjet in recent years, which have inconvenienced travelling ministers.

Government will now have to make a decision as to whether it should be replaced with a new multi-million aircraft.

The jet, which has been in use since it was purchased for €8m in 2004, took 56 trips in 2021 and 63 trips last year.

The Lear LR45 is operated by the Air Corps and costs an average of €3,790 an hour to run.

The Fianna Fáil leader will have to decide whether the jet will be replaced or scrapped during his term as minister.

“As it advances in age the Learjet has naturally become less reliable, the Air Corps estimate (based on current serviceability data etc.) that the aircraft will require replacement by 2024 at the latest,” a briefing document for Mr Martin says.

It can carry seven passengers and carry out short and medium haul flights to the UK and Europe

Senior politicians often use the jet instead of commercial flights to stay on top of their packed schedules.

It can carry seven passengers and carry out short and medium haul flights to the UK and Europe.

Last year, the then Defence Minister Simon Coveney announced a high-level group of officials had been established to scope out options on the future of the Ministerial Air Transport Service (MATS), which flies the President, Taoiseach and ministers in State aircraft.

The group also examined how the service can be used to fly top politicians internationally, as the Learjet currently is not used for long-haul flights.

A strategic assessment report and preliminary business case was produced, containing “financial appraisal and economic assessment” carried out by PwC, according to the documents prepared for Mr Martin.

Last September, while he was Taoiseach, Mr Martin saw his Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to New York have to turn around shortly after take off due to a bird strike. As a result, he missed a meeting with US President Joe Biden.

Officials use commercial airlines for long haul flights as the Learjet is not deemed suitable. Mr Martin’s own officials previously wanted to charter an aircraft when he was travelling to Paris because they did not believe the jet would be fit to fly.

A spokesperson for the Department of Defence said at the time that issues around reliability of the Learjet meant it was available for just 29pc of days in the first five months of 2022.

Mr Coveney and his officials were forced to make an emergency landing while travelling to Turkey in 2021 after the jet suffered a technical issue.

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