Former President Rafael Correa welcomed the start of an audit of the trips of the presidential aircraft, announced last July by the Comptroller’s Office. “So they can confirm how many hours a day we worked for the country and how even the food on board was prepared in Carondelet or we took it in tubs to save some money,” he replied through his Twitter account.
A report from the Special Air Transport Group (GTAE), which heads the planes in which the high government authorities are traveling, shows the operating costs of the two presidential aircraft – the Legacy 600 and the Falcon 7X – between January 2014 and September 2017
According to this document, the expense in catering, as the food service that is offered on board an aircraft is called, was not low for at least the first two years analyzed.
The cost amounted to $ 507,000 in 2014. The figure remained at the same levels the following year, when it reached $ 451,000. Since 2016, spending has decreased considerably. It fell to $ 105,000 and in 2017, to $ 77,000.
Catering is not the most expensive operational service. In addition to this expense, the GTAE report details the cost of flight logistics, simulators for pilot training, fuel, handling (as the services provided by airports where aircraft are landed) and the maintenance. Of all these, the first item is the highest.
Between 2014 and 2017, operating costs totaled $ 11.06 million, that is, an average of $ 2.76 million were spent each year. In 2018, the figure reached $ 1.39 million until last September.
These amounts do not take into account additional expenses such as salaries and travel expenses of the members of the GTAE. Currently 98 officers make up this unit.
The operational staff-pilots, crew, mechanics and technicians-has 56 people. There are also 24 administrative employees and 18 who are responsible for security.
The purchase of the two presidential aircraft amounted to a total of $ 80 million. The Legacy 600, which began operating in December 2008 with the registration FAE051, was acquired in $ 30.3 million. While the Falcon 7X, which premiered in November 2013 with registration FAE052, had a price of $ 49.7 million.
Newspaper EL UNIVERSO analyzed the international routes of the two planes between January 2011 and May 2017. This newspaper has requested, since last April, the registration of the international trips of those planes, and in the last response received, at the beginning of October, records for the years 2009 and 2010 were not included.
In a letter sent to the Presidential Protection Service (SPP), on September 25, the commander of the GTAE, Carlos Yánez Lastra, warned that “there are no documentary backups of flights completed from 2008 to 2011”.
In the period analyzed, between 2011 and 2017, EL UNIVERSO identified 255 international trips made by the presidential ships. Former President Rafael Correa and former Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño were the authorities that led the most trips: 70 each, that is, 55% of the trips.
On at least seven occasions, presidential aircraft were used to transport foreign delegations.
The aircraft left the country on thirteen occasions for maintenance in Brazil, France and the United States (Nashville, Palm Beach and Wilmington).
The Internal Regulations of the Air Transport Group (GTAE) classified the flight orders used to transport government authorities as reserved.
The flight orders detail the names of the crew, the number of passengers, the air route, the baggage load and the departure and arrival times.
The GTAE classified this information to prevent it being disclosed to unauthorized personnel, which could jeopardize the safety of aircraft and government authorities. (I)