Monday, September 28, 2020

DIS hands over PC-24 jet to VP, cabinet ministers for official use

The head of Directorate of Intelligence Services, Peter Magosi has taken a decision that his department will have no use for the luxurious PC-24 jet that his predecessor, Isaac Kgosi had ordered.

The jet which is due to arrive in Botswana soon has cost Government over P100 million.

It is currently in Switzerland where it has been emblazoned with the colours of Botswana.

It bears registration mark DS-1.

Sunday Standard has learnt that Magosi will hand over the jet to Government for official use by Vice President who shall share it with other cabinet ministers as and when required.

The President already has his own premier jet, the Canadian made Bombardier Global Express BD700 XRS.

It is not clear why Kgosi decided to buy the PC-24 when the DIS already had two lower derivative PC-12 that are viewed as more suited to the operations of the intelligence services.

The PC-12 is cheaper to operate with a bigger carrying capacity.

An aviation expert approached by Sunday Standard for expert opinion has after a careful analysis reached a conclusion that DIS does not need a PC-24.

Writing in the Sunday Standard, the expert, under the pseudonym *Denis Kgage, argues that the DISS already owns two Pilatus PC-12NG aircrafts. “Which raises the question, does the DISS need the PC-24 jet aircraft?”

After narrating the characteristics, capabilities, advantages and disadvantages of each, Kgage states that “there is no justification for the purchase of the PC24 if you already own the PC12-NG.”

Information picked by Sunday Standard is that the former DIS head bought the jet not for DIS use but so that it could be availed for the convenience and comfort of a retired Ian Khama who would no longer have access to the official presidential jet.

This would have ensured that there was always a biz-jet available whenever Khama needed it under the retired president’s privileges and entitlements.

The former DIS Director General, Isaac Kgosi was among 84 customers worldwide that ordered the first batch of the Pilatus PC-24 twin engine business jet which has been under development by Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland. 

Another known customer is the Swiss Air Force, which intended to use the jet as an executive transport for Swiss Federal Council ÔÇô (the Swiss Executive arm comprising the president and six cabinet members).

Sunday Standard can reveal that when Pilatus opened its order book on the first day of the May 2014 European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva, Switzerland, the DIS was among the first to place an order. By the end of the show, the PC-24 had gained 84 orders, with production sold out until 2019.

To secure his order, the DIS boss paid a non-refundable deposit of $250 000 (about P2, 5 million) for the aircraft, roughly equivalent to 2.8 percent of the PC-24’s $8.9 million price tag. 

According to PC 24 reviews, “only the finest-quality materials have been used to create an interior that fits in perfectly with the latest standards of comfort and functionality. Every component is chosen to enhance the passenger experience: soft leathers and rare hardwood cabinetry full of exquisite details create a bespoke interior that reflects the meticulous purpose of the aircraft.

The PC-24 operating costs are, however, expected to burn a hole on the government budget. According to information raised by the Sunday Standard, the pricing of several layers of fixed monthly costs will be driven by aircraft utilisation, starting at $545 per hour. 

Pilatus is working with Williams International to develop an hourly engine maintenance programme, and separately an airframe maintenance programme for the aircraft. Apart from the hourly engine and airframe maintenance costs, the DIS is expected to spend more on the expensive aviation fuel, considering the relatively high PC24 fuel consumption.

Compared to the average Mid-size Private Jet, which costs $3.58* per nautical mile and $46.78¢* per seat per nautical mile to operate, the Pilatus PC-24 is $0.85 cheaper per nautical mile (a 24-percent margin) and 21.53¢ more expensive per seat per nautical mile (a 46 percent premium)

Compared to the average fuel costs for all private aircraft, which are $0.59* per nautical mile and 23.79¢* per seat per nautical mile, the Pilatus PC-24 is $2.15 more expensive per nautical mile (a 366-percent premium) and 44.52¢ more expensive per seat per nautical mile (a 187 -percent premium). One Nautical Mile = 1.15 Miles

To prepare its crew for conversion to the PC-24, the agency sent pilots, Tino Phuthego and Opelo Motlhagela, to Dallas, Texas, to be drilled by FlightSafety International. 

Under a master services agreement signed by Pilatus Aircraft, the DIS pilots obtained factory-authorised training for the new Pilatus PC-24 twinjet from FlightSafety International.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.