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Biggles Airways

Old 30th Sep 2002, 09:50
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Biggles Airways

'Biggles Airways' plan to put RAF into tourism business

Monday September 30, 2002
The Guardian

RAF pilots would fly tourists to southern Spain and other holiday destinations under a £13bn private finance initiative scheme being considered by defence chiefs.
Spare aircraft crewed by reservists would be leased to commercial airlines during peacetime to raise revenue for the armed forces under a proposal dubbed "Biggles Airways" by a sceptical union leader.

Details are disclosed in confidential documents prepared by the UK-led AirTanker consortium, which is offering to supply 20 Airbus A330s to the RAF to replace its ageing VC10s and Tristars.

The new aircraft, intended to refuel fighters and bombers in midair from 2008, could be converted to commercial passenger use "in hours", according to the Ministry of Defence.

The AirTanker documents seen by the Guardian show the consortium believes it can use planes not required by the RAF for active service or training to make money under the PFI deal.

"There is a substantial difference in the number of assets [aircraft] needed to meet peak [crisis] RAF requirements and normal peacetime use," the documents note. "Spare aircraft could be used to generate commercial, third party revenue, rather that sitting on the tarmac doing nothing."

The MoD is to sign a 27-year PFI contract next year for the refuelling tankers and the consortium, which includes Rolls-Royce, is competing with Boeing for the £13bn deal.

An AirTanker source said RAF markings would be painted out and the aircraft, to be based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, would be fitted with conventional seating.

"You can use them for holiday flights to Malaga," said the AirTanker source.

The proposal has met resistance from some union officials who believe PFI risks undermining public services.

John Edmonds, leader of the GMB general union, said: "This is another example of the government's obsession with privatisation. How is it going to look when the prime minister has to tell George Bush the RAF cannot bomb Baghdad because it is stuck on a Club 18-30 mission to Benidorm?"

Tim MacMahon, AirTanker marketing director, said: "PFI is a vehicle that allows the MoD to have a full wartime capability in peacetime when of course not all that capability is required. The ability to generate third party revenue from aircraft not fully required in peacetime reduces the overall cost to the taxpayer and ensures a full wartime capability to the MoD."

The MoD said RAF requirements would take precedence but a MoD spokeswoman said the contract did include "the use of aircraft commercially at times".
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Old 30th Sep 2002, 10:12
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I thought the leader of GMB would be delighted if RAF unable to bomb anything, anywhere
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Old 30th Sep 2002, 11:09
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To paraphrase his own words " This is another example of unions leaders' obsession against privatisation / PFI". I presume he would be happier if billions of pounds worth of tax payers' aircraft are purchased to do absolutely bu**er all for 99% of the time!. Seems like an excellent idea - in principal, obviously the reality will be more difficult to pull off.

On a journalistic note, I'm not sure why the Guardian has chosen now to start talking about something that has been public knowledge for a very long time. Secondly, I would have thought it unlikely that many of this aircraft type would be used on runs to the Spanish Costas.
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Old 30th Sep 2002, 13:17
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You can imagine being aboard on your way to the costas when captain comes over the intercom explaining to the passengers not be alarmed at the fact that the 2 fighters flying perilously close are actually being re fuelled, and sorry for the slight diversion. And thankyou for flying PFI Air
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Old 30th Sep 2002, 13:45
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So how much will it cost in money and out-of-service time to constantly repaint the aircraft?

Then you have the bigger problem of it being a military target with civilians on board. When soldiers adopt this practice of being out of uniform, they are treated as spys when in another country. What about a military aircraft in civilian colours? Is it a spy aircraft? This could be an excuse to destroy it anyway. Will there be more security for these particular aircraft and who will provide it? It certainly would be a potential target for people wanting to score twice against the UK. Once against the military and once against the "Capatilistic West" a la WTC.

They don't seem to have thought out all eventualities, do they?
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Old 30th Sep 2002, 14:10
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How do you know that they haven't "thought out all eventualities". What do you know other than what is written in some trashy newspaper article - I don't know either but am not looking to rubbish or promote the project on the basis of virtually no information.

You may have a valid point on security and the project does pre-date 9/11/01 and therefore this may be something that is of greater relevance now that originally. However, I think the security issues are little different from other aircraft - from the outside worlds' perspective will they appear any different? On the paintwork front, I have no military knowledge but why would the paint need changing, I would have thought they will be working far from the front line over friendly countries.
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Old 30th Sep 2002, 14:25
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Er..yes - but what about Civilian Crew Licensing, FTL/CAP371, ATOL membership, AOC holding, et al? Would they operate to different legislation? I'm not for a moment doubting their competence, that's a given- but would there be a level playing field here? One assumes that 'reservists' would be probably already flying for civilian airlines - would those airlines release them? Hmmm..

Last edited by Earthmover; 30th Sep 2002 at 14:30.
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Old 30th Sep 2002, 14:54
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This has been going on for a long time eg HMS Lusitania (auxilary cruiser) or the C19 that went down at Lockerbie and wasn't there a time when BA (and QF and ????) had reserve commissions or something. I can recall something about backup carriage of diplomatic docs by QF captains (and if desperate by BOAC, Pan Am etc)
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Old 30th Sep 2002, 14:58
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Obviously there would need to be a lot of thought about these issues but without knowing the full proposals we cannot know what the planned solutions are. Just one other thought though, just because the RAF only needs a small proportion of the aircraft to play war games, doesn't mean it cannot have a full compliment of pilots. I don't believe for one minute the proposal seriously suggests RAF pilots will be used for commercial service - reservists maybe but presumably this already happens. .
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Old 30th Sep 2002, 15:05
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It's a better idea than it sounds, I think. But even so, a PFI project that doesn't go expensively tits-up will probably be a first. (Although John Edmonds is an arrogant, willy waving goon.) As the aircraft wouldn't be armed in any way, and would (I think) be the property of the company, it would be hard to make a case that they were combatant - unless they were actually refuelling fighters, in which case there wouldn't be room for any pax!

BTW, whether the airlines would "release" the reservists might not be too important: if you're a reservist and they send out the mobilisation orders, you gotta go anyway! Sacking them in such a situation could be a tiny tad unpopular...
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Old 30th Sep 2002, 15:11
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This seems an excellent idea, straight out of Catch-22. It can surely be extended beyond just bucket-and-spade charters. I am personally looking forward to the Business Express class, using Tornadoes and Jaguars to shuttle middle management to important meetings around Europe and the ultimate First Express making better use of all those new Typhoons (EFs) that are due otherwise to be mothballed. Children’s birthday parties on the Lancaster, helicopters on construction sites and nine directors at a time in board meetings with the Red Arrows are all possible.

The scope is endless, nearly, for not-being-used military facilities to be brought into useful money earning roles. The Royal Navy and the Army have a role to play in generating more cash for the Government leviathan to spend on its schemes.

It’s not just commercial pilots whose jobs are threatened by this venture. Bouncers and Group 4 should be wary of the SAS, ferry captains without flight decks may look apprehensively at carriers, celebrity chefs tremble at the thought of the mobile catering corps and trawlermen can be scared by packs of hunter killer subs with nets behind them.

And all this without considering what the WAAF and guardsmen could do for the tourist trade.
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Old 30th Sep 2002, 15:23
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Row 12F

I solute your commercial creativity, where did you get your MBA?
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Old 30th Sep 2002, 15:40
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I can just see it now . . .




‘This is the Captain – please extinguish all cigarettes and lower the blinds during special weapons release. Seat belts should be fastened and all electronic equipment turned off until the initial nuclear effects have subsided.’

The lunatics are pleased to announce that they now have control of the asylum.

I’ll take on the opposition anyday. It’s my management I can’t beat!

Last edited by Roobarb; 30th Sep 2002 at 15:46.
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Old 30th Sep 2002, 15:55
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Right Roobarb,

I've had the same service recently here in the US. Due to Internet libel issues, can't name the airline.
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Old 30th Sep 2002, 16:07
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Funniest post I've read in ages. ROTFL
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Old 30th Sep 2002, 16:27
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How about leaving the refuelling kit and tanks in and run special ultra-long haul holidays for, let's say, about 100 pax on a KC330 - once in a lifetime trip non-stop to the Falklands anyone?

And while we're about it, how about using all those crap SA80(A whatever) as more realistic laser/paintball gaming weapons. Just add laser pointing device and Bob's yer uncle!

And what about using surplus Warriors and Challenger II's as heavy farm tractors - help out the poor struggling farmer for free?

And then we could use an anti-mine flail tank to thrash some sense into the "New" Labour Cabinet!

And what about some retired Army fellas as Leader of the Opposition - oh, sorry, we did that already!

God the possibilities are endlesss! Let's hear some more.
Old 30th Sep 2002, 16:33
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Quite a few Second and Third World Air Forces charter out their aircraft in this way.

Hmmmmmm !
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Old 1st Oct 2002, 06:27
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Paying lots of money for something which does bug.ger all for 99% of the time? Wasn't BA once like that?

Actually, it sounds more like paying for an Insurance Policy - which is what HM's Armed Forces should really be. Except when they're protecting Toady's diamonds, of course.......
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Old 1st Oct 2002, 10:46
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Actually, the RAF has been carrying fare-paying civilian passengers, including holidaymakers, for many years on L1011-500s to the Falkland Islands. And they usually get the return flight as well!

Therefore, I presume, all the legal and security issues have already been dealt with successfully.
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