One of the two KC-30s of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), aircraft planned for conversion to aerial refuelling, is expected to have another role, serving President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on long-haul flights.
According to the Poder 360 outlet, Lula would have ordered the Ministry of Defense that one of the Airbus A330-200 be transformed into a VVIP aircraft (acronym for very very important person).
The two A330-200s were purchased by the FAB in April 2022 for US$80.6 million in a tender in which only the holding company that controls the Azul carrier participated.
The Airbuses did not belong to the airline, which leased them from third parties for some time. After winning the auction for lack of other proposals, Azul bought the two aircraft to then pass them on to the FAB.
The then Air Force Commander, Brigadier Carlos de Almeida Baptista Junior, intended to convert the A330s, renamed KC-30, to the MRTT standard (air refueling) by 2024. However, the deal with Airbus was never disclosed, if it ever took place.
Instead, the KC-30s are configured as commercial aircraft and are performing long-haul flights on Air Force missions and in support of presidential trips such as Lula’s recent visits to Japan and China – the president flew in the VC-1A, Airbus A319 purchased in his first term in 2002.
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Double bed and more space
According to Poder 360, Lula enjoyed the experience aboard the KC-30 when he flew with it to the United States in February. Although without the VC-1A amenities such as a double bed and private bathroom, the A330 can fly longer distances, avoiding unwanted stopovers.
The Air Force Command would have presented the project to convert one of the A330-200s into a presidential aircraft on Wednesday, according to the outlet.
Mexico sells 787, Argentina buys 757
The relationship between Latin American representatives and presidential planes is controversial. There are those who gave up convenience, preferring to lease commercial aircraft (Mauricio Macri in Argentina and Fernando Henrique Cardoso in Brazil), and those who understand that it is a matter of national security to keep a jet of this type ready.
Recently, two episodes have attracted attention. Last week, leftist Argentine President Alberto Fernández received the replacement for the famous Tango 01, a Boeing 757 VIP delivered in the 2000s.
The used aircraft, also a 757, was purchased for US$ 25 million, partially paid for with the transfer of Tango 01.
Another politician with leftist roots, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, from Mexico, took office in 2019 promising to get rid of the presidential Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which he called the “white elephant”.
Obrador only recently got on the plane when he announced the sale of the modern 787 to the government of Tajikistan in April.