Boris’s Union Jack jet grounded by Covid: RAF plane given £900k makeover flies abroad ‘once’ in 2021

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Boris’s Union Jack jet is grounded by Covid: RAF plane given £900,000 patriotic makeover makes promotional visit abroad ‘just once’ in 2021 and has spent most of its time refuelling fighters over the North Sea

  • Airbus A330 Voyager was decked out in red, white and blue in summer of 2020 
  • Designed to promote the UK when PM flies to international summits 
  • But such events have been largely off the diary due to the pandemic 

An RAF jet given a £900,000 patriotic make-over featuring a Union Jack paint scheme has been laregly grounded by the pandemic, it has been revealed.

The Airbus A330 Voyager was decked out in red, white and blue in the summer of 2020 to help the PM fly the flag for the UK when he travels to international summits.

But such events have been largely off the diary due to the pandemic. The aircraft’s only foreign promotional journey in 2021 was a trip by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to Greece, analysis by the i newspaper suggests.

Barring a Nato exercise overseas earlier this month , the rest of its operational flying has been limited to its secondary role as an air-to-air tanker refuelling Typhoon fighters on patrol in UK airspace. 

The Airbus A330 Voyager was decked out in red, white and blue in the summer of 2020 to help the PM fly the flag for the UK when he travels to international summits.

But such events have been largely off the diary due to the pandemic. The aircraft's only foreign promotional journey in 2021 was a trip by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to Greece (pictured), analysis by the i newspaper suggests.

But such events have been largely off the diary due to the pandemic. The aircraft's only foreign promotional journey in 2021 was a trip by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to Greece (pictured), analysis by the i newspaper suggests.

But such events have been largely off the diary due to the pandemic. The aircraft’s only foreign promotional journey in 2021 was a trip by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to Greece (pictured), analysis by the i newspaper suggests.

Barring a Nato exercise overseas earlier this month , the rest of its operational flying has been limited to its secondary role as an air-to-air tanker refuelling Typhoon fighters on patrol in UK airspace.

Barring a Nato exercise overseas earlier this month , the rest of its operational flying has been limited to its secondary role as an air-to-air tanker refuelling Typhoon fighters on patrol in UK airspace.

Barring a Nato exercise overseas earlier this month , the rest of its operational flying has been limited to its secondary role as an air-to-air tanker refuelling Typhoon fighters on patrol in UK airspace.

Critics have mocked it as an expensive folly that will make Mr Johnson (pictured today) look like Austin Powers on tour and questioned the expense in the middle of the pandemic

Critics have mocked it as an expensive folly that will make Mr Johnson (pictured today) look like Austin Powers on tour and questioned the expense in the middle of the pandemic

Critics have mocked it as an expensive folly that will make Mr Johnson (pictured today) look like Austin Powers on tour and questioned the expense in the middle of the pandemic

When the aircraft was unveiled last year ministers hoped the new design – which is much more visible than the usual military grey – will help boost ‘Brand Britain’ abroad.

But critics have mocked it as an expensive folly that will make Mr Johnson look like Austin Powers on tour and questioned the expense in the middle of the pandemic.

The new appearance bears a striking resemblance to the retro livery that adorned the British Airways fleet from 1974 to 1980, known as the Negus design.

The PM shares the plane with members of the royal family who wish to use it when they travel abroad.

Britain does not have a prime ministerial plane used solely by Downing Street, unlike many other countries such as America’s presidential jet, Air Force One. 

Downing Street also defended the £900,000 price tag at the time, with his official spokesman saying: ‘That incorporates the cost of creating a design that will promote the UK around the world without compromising the plane’s vital military role.

‘At every stage we have worked to ensure value for money for the UK taxpayer and all of the work has been undertaken in the UK, directly benefiting British suppliers.’

A government spokeswoman said today: ‘The VIP Voyager is used by the Prime Minister, senior ministers and members of the Royal Family for long-haul flights. During the global coronavirus pandemic, the number of such flights has been greatly reduced.’ 

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