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Mariano approves $M jet

Tuesday, March 11 2008

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MARIANO BROWNE, Minister in the Ministry of Finance...
MARIANO BROWNE, Minister in the Ministry of Finance...

MARIANO BROWNE, Minister in the Ministry of Finance, yesterday told Newsday he authorised payment of $400 million into a Caribbean Airlines (CA) account for the proposed purchase of an executive jet, one day after Cabinet gave the go-ahead.

But while the Minister was willing to confirm this yesterday, he would not say where the $400 million came from, noting that Government has several funds, including the Consolidated Fund, from which to meet various expenses.

The Minister, further, did not want to go into the details of the proposed acquisition, arguing that while CA is a fully State-owned company, it is a “private entity” that must be able to compete effectively on the market and as such not have its plans ventilated in the public domain.

“Some details you don’t want to get into. You are negotiating,” the Minister said yesterday in a telephone interview. “The strategic plan for CA ought not to be discussed in the press...This is an investment decision and at this stage in the game, no final decision has been taken.”

Cabinet approved the CA jet proposal on February 28, with Browne signing-off on the $400 million payment the next day. CA wrote the Ministry of Finance, which is the airline company’s corporation sole, on February 27 outlining its proposal.

Yesterday, Browne defended the “proximity” of the receipt of this CA letter, the Cabinet decision and the $400 million transfer to a CA bank account by saying discussions on the jet had been in train since “early February” and pointing out that an opportunity had arisen on the market to obtain the jet, requiring quick action.

Meanwhile, details of the proposed acquisition of a $400 million Bombardier Global Express XRS emerged. Under the proposed arrangement, CA will have to recruit new pilots for the jet who will have to be trained. No current pilots from the CA crew are to be diverted for servicing the aircraft. This follows from the plan to have a separate company handle the executive jet service.

Bombardier currently offers training programs for pilots for its Global Express XRS jet. In September, the company launched a full-flight simulator for use in its training network. The simulator was launched in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Additionally, Bombardier offers web-based training for the Global XRS. A technical familiarisation course costs $10,064 for one year’s access, while a interiors operator course costs $5,032.

Aviation website Aviatrade Incorporated estimates that the total training costs per pilot for a Global XRS is an initial $240,000 in the first year plus “maintenance” training of $77,000 every six months.

Further factoring a pilot salary of $805,000 per year, the total costs in the first year of the jet’s operation for one pilot will be something around $1.1million.

The Global XRS is expected to have at least a captain and a first officer.

Aviatrade also estimates that the total annual cost of running the Global XRS will be roughly $18million.

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