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PM's CF-150 Polaris Airbus out of operation until August
Murray Brewster · CBC News · Posted: Dec 02, 2021 3:45 PM ET
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be hitching rides on a variety of air force planes for the foreseeable future.
The CF-150 Polaris Airbus that usually shuttles the prime minister to world events is out of commission following a hangar accident last month.
The nearly 30-year-old passenger aircraft, which is specially outfitted with a private cabin, was being towed "by contracted maintenance personnel" at the military's largest airbase in Trenton, Ont., when it "suffered significant structural damage to the nose and right engine cowling," said air force spokesman Lt.-Col Steve Neta.
The aircraft rolled into the back wall of a hangar.
"The incident remains under investigation to determine causes and identify preventive measures," Neta added.
Engineering teams from Airbus, the aircraft's original maker, conducted an assessment and concluded the aircraft will not return to service until August of next year.
Neta said an air safety investigation is underway.
"We do not have sufficient detail about potential costs, or the attribution of those costs, to provide any detail at this time," he said.
Trudeau is attending the NATO summit in London this week; he flew to the U.K. on one of the air force's other C-150s. Neta said the military is confident it can fill the gap in VIP transportation during the interim.
The sad story of why we have a CAN FORCE ONE
Use as VIP transport
The decision to outfit one of the five CC-150s as a VIP transport intended for use by the Prime Minister of Canada, made while Brian Mulroney held office, was politically controversial. The $56 million in upgrades were criticized as a needless extravagance during a time of government budgetary challenges by then-Leader of the Opposition Jean Chrétien, who labelled the aircraft a "flying Taj Mahal". Chrétien became Prime Minister soon thereafter and tried and failed to sell the aircraft; he would refuse to make use of the CC-150 during his ensuing 11 years in office. The aircraft was parked at Canadian Forces Base Uplands on standby, two aircraft were used in its place primarily the CC-144 Challenger. and a second CC-150 when a larger aircraft was required.
Subsequent refits to and from use as a troop transport would result in much of the VIP amenities being downgraded. The CC-150 would return to use as official transport for the prime minister under Paul Martin in 2004.
CC-150 Polaris No. 01 in 2014
In 2011 it emerged that since early 2009 the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper had repeatedly requested that the CC-150 configured for VIP use be repainted from the gun-metal military paint scheme it shared with the other CC-150s to a specialized paint scheme. The Department of National Defence, including Minister Peter MacKay, had resisted this request, noting that it was contrary to its multi-role nature and would compromise the aircraft's potential to safely transport personnel into a combat zone. The decision was ultimately made to repaint the craft during its next scheduled heavy maintenance.
In 2013, the VIP-configured CC-150, aircraft #01, was repainted during scheduled heavy maintenance at a cost of $50,000. The new scheme, predominantly white with significant quantities of blue and smaller amounts of red, was criticized heavily by opposition politicians, who alleged the repainting was intended to give prominence to the then-governing Conservative Party of Canada's traditional blue colour although the RCAF Roundel consists of the colours blue, white, and red. Its call sign is known officially as CAN Force One.