Signs point to Turkish VIP jet purchase months before announcement

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has insisted the $500 million ultra-luxury Boeing 747-8 VIP jet that was added to his state fleet of aircraft last week was a gift from its previous owner, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, who reportedly sent it to Turkey after learning of Erdoğan’s interest in the jet.

However, information uncovered by Ahval has added credence to Turkish opposition politicians’ views that the jet was a paid purchase by Turkey. Moreover, the sale appears to have been agreed on months ago.

According to the story presented by the Turkish government, Qatar learned of Erdoğan’s interest in the jet after it was put up for auction through a specialist VIP jet outfiting company, AMAC, which is headquartered in Switzerland but has hangars in Istanbul and Bodrum in west Turkey. The Qatari Emir was said to have sent the jet to Turkey despite interest from other potential buyers.

Yet Aviation Week magazine reported back in May that AMAC was “working on a nose-to-tail VVIP completion project on a Boeing 747-8i.”

“The work, which will take more than 20 months to complete, will see the jet configured to the requirements of the head of state of an undisclosed nation,” reported Aviation Week, adding that the contract had been awarded at the end of 2017.

If this news as it appears refers to the jet that touched down in Istanbul last week, the decision to sell the jet to Turkey – or to present it as a half-billion-dollar gift – had been agreed as early as last year.

Another news story that may corroborate this timeframe was published by HaberTürk in April.

The news story centred on job advertisements placed by Turkish Airlines for a pilot and co-pilot with experience flying jets with wide body aircraft such as the 747-8 – a class of plane that is not on the airline’s roster.

The Drive’s profile on the VIP jet speculated that Qatar had made the decision to sell the aircraft due to its cost-inefficient maintenance and running costs.

Turkey, however, appears to have acquired the jet – after months of groundwork – amid serious financial difficulties that has seen the president urging citizens to exchange their gold and dollar savings for lira to save the economy.