LONDON – Is it time for Thailand to replace its flagship Airbus A340-500 VIP? The Thai cabinet thinks the country is ready for a new flagship transporter according to nationthailand.com.
Recently the Thai cabinet has approved a budget of 8.78 billion Thai baht or approximately $275 million USD to procure new jets for VIPs, high-ranking ministers, royals, and privy councillors and perform critical missions.
This new budget has been tabled by the Prime Minister’s Secretariat and approved on Tuesday. Within the budget to procure a new plane, also comes with the training of personnel and the purchasing of spare inventory and parts.
The Current Thailand Flagship
The proposal, according to the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) hopes to replace A340-500 purchased from Thai Airways International (THAI) for VIP travel in 2016.
According to The Nation Thailand, the procurement proposal stated: “The Airbus, which THAI used between 2005 and 2012, was commissioned in 2015.”
Adding to the proposal, Airbus ceased production of the A340 in 2012, and this has inevitably rise in maintenance costs and sourcing of spare parts. This is somewhat wise for the Thai government to search for a replacement aircraft.
The registration of the current Air Force flagship is the HS-TYV with a manufacturing serial number of 698. The aircraft’s previous registration is HS-TLC, flown briefly with Thai Airways from 2005 to 2012. Since then it has been stored until the RTAF bought it for VIP transport missions.
The HS-TYV flagship serves proudly the people of Thailand. It has carried many VIP officials, including the Thai Prime Minister for an overseas visit, the Thai head of state, and high ranking Royal Family, and also played a huge role in evacuating Thai citizens from abroad, namely from the Ukraine-Russian war.
During the height of the pandemic, the Thai quad jet performed humanitarian missions to deliver supplies to India and Nepal for instance.
The Previous Flag Ship
The predecessor to the A340-500 VIP was the A310 VIP with the registration of HS-TYQ serial number 591 delivered in 1991. The aircraft is now stored at Takhli Air Base in central Thailand.
The Future Flagship
There are several options that the Thai government can look at. Ranging from the A350 ACJ, A330NEO ACJ, Boeing BBJ 787, or Boeing BBJ 777.
With a budget of approximately $275 million, the Airbus camps seem to be out of touch with the buyer as of this moment, as ex-factory ( brand new ) aircraft are listed above or high $300 million USD for both A330neos and the A350.
The Boeing BBJ 787 looks like an economical option for the Thai government should they want to buy a brand-new aircraft. The BBJ 787 is listed at around $270 depending on upgrades and refurbishments.
It is assumed that the Thai government would want to purchase an Airbus, as they have been operator Airbus for their VIP fleet. The hefty price tag, however, could deter the streak, unless they have to opt for pre-owned machines.