Special Purpose Aircraft

Air Force is proud to operate five Special Purpose Aircraft to provide efficient and reliable air travel for the Governor-General, Prime Minister, visiting Heads of State and other dignitaries.

The Special Purpose Aircraft are operated by Number 34 Squadron from Defence Establishment Fairbairn, Canberra, and comprise two 737 BBJ (Boeing Business Jet) and three CL-604 Challenger aircraft.

The aircraft are used when commercial travel arrangements are not suitable for official commitments due to the location, timing, or security considerations. They can also be used in times of emergency to provide rapid deployment or personnel such as medical teams to a disaster area.

When considering the use of Special Purpose Aircraft, the first consideration is the availability and suitability of commercially available travel. In circumstances where commercial alternatives are readily available, the Special Purpose Aircraft are not used in order to reduce the costs to taxpayers.

RAAF operates the Special Purpose Fleet in a cost-conscious manner, by considering the most efficient aircraft for the transport task required. For example, The BBJ is typically used for long distance travel or with large groups. The CL604 Challenger is typically used for shorter tasks in to smaller airfields. In most cases, the aircraft will remain with the VIP to reduce costs, but there may be circumstances where this is not possible or desirable. This may be due to aircraft maintenance requirements, lack of aircraft parking availability, lack of appropriate security, or a requirement to undertake other tasks or essential aircrew training.

The number of flights provided by Number 34 Squadron varies each year. On average, Number 34 Squadron provides between 1,200 and 1,800 special purpose flights each year.

Copies of the Schedule of Special Purpose Flights are prepared twice each year, and tabled in Parliament. Once tabled, copies are available from the Parliamentary Library and the Defence Publications Information to Parliament page.

In accordance with the Commonwealth Government Guidelines for the Use of Special Purpose Aircraft, costings of special purpose flights are not made available until the Schedule of Special Purpose Flights has been tabled in Parliament. Prior to tabling, passenger names are not released in order to comply with the Privacy Act 1988.

Information about how aircraft costs are calculated can be found at the following link http://www.airforce.gov.au/aircraftcosts

Caretaker

In the period preceding an election, the Australian Government including Air Force, assumes a caretaker role. The caretaker period begins at the time the House of Representatives is dissolved and continues until the election result is clear or; if there is a change of government, until the new government is appointed.

During the caretaker period, under long standing conventions, resources are not used to support any particular political party. In practice, this means Defence makes aircraft available to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, Government Ministers and Shadow Ministers as Entitled Persons as outlined in the Commonwealth Government Guidelines for the Use of Special Purpose Aircraft to assist them in meeting their commitments.

During the caretaker period, the Special Purpose Aircraft may be supplemented with additional chartered aircraft or Air Force military aircraft to meet transport requirements. Military aircraft will only assist with transport requirements if there is no impact to essential Defence operations and training.

In some cases, Entitled Persons may be accompanied by a non-entitled person, including members of the media. In this situation, passengers who are not Entitled Persons will pay a ‘cost recovery’ fee for their transport.

Copies of the Schedule of Special Purpose Flights are prepared twice each year, with an additional report prepared for the election period, and tabled in Parliament. Once tabled, copies are available from the Parliamentary Library and the Defence Publications Information to Parliament page.