Fact has it that, “Air Force One”, is technically a radio call name, for any plane on which the President of the United States of America travels.
So, “Air Force One”, simply put; is the plane flying the President of the United States of America.
Fact also has it that, the “Air Force One” naming convention, was established for “communication purposes”.
Apparently, the name was adapted in 1953, after a commercial plane, Flight 8610, owned by Eastern Airlines, entered President Eisenhower’s airspace when he was on board his plane, which had a similar name, – Air Force 8610.
After that incident, and for that particular airspace confusion never to occur again, the term “Air Force One” was coined so as to be spot-on at all times about the exact plane that carries the Commander-in-Chief.
Ipso facto, the American Airforce fleets the current Air Force One planes (there are two of them which are Boeing 747-200 models), purchased in in 1990. Very calculated choice of name huh?
Today, in the Republic of Ghana, the ugly hydra-headed debate over whether the nation needs a Presidential Jet or not, has arisen again.
In all honesty, I am unable to extricate myself from the debate when it reared its consuming head in the build-up to the 2008 General Elections when President John Agyekum Kufuor, in the twilight of his Presidency, purchased the current Falcon 900 EXE which is called the “Presidential Jet”.
I am of the debated and considered opinion that, it is the tag – “Presidential Jet”, that makes the ugly hydra-headed name-calling debates pop up when it comes to the issue of procuring a Jet for the use of a President of the Republic of Ghana on official assignments – not for fun nor frolicking.
Per our current democratic dispensation, and because the purchase of any such Presidential Jet definitely takes place during the period of a particular President who won on the wings of a political party, there would always be the politically “expedient” points-scoring tendency to make it seem the Jet is meant for frivolous comfort.
Listening to the debate, nobody is against the purchase of a Jet for the use of Presidents.
What is always in contention, is, the configuration of the Jet that is to be called the, Presidential Jet – and the comfort in which the President travels.
Of course, when a Minister of State makes a politically unacceptable statement to the effect that a new jet must be purchased to enable the President “shower airborne”; why would the impression not be created that the President is only interested in his/her comfort?
The more valid question is; should we or should we not have a Jet that allows the President of the Republic of Ghana to function effectively while inward/outward bound?
Humbly serving President John Evans Atta-Mills, I was privileged to be a key member of his entourage on his official trips in and outside the Republic of Ghana.
For the records, my presence on the trips had all to do with my extremely useful role as the, Head of Communications at the Office of the President.
As Head of Communications, I was solely responsible for writing all the speeches of President Atta-Mills; communicated (via voice, thought, and deed) on behalf of the President; managed the Presidential Press Corp; was in-charge of the President’s Public Relations, and also managed the Image of the President.
Of course, I was not the keeper of the President’s Diary – but I imputed into the diary as far as my official duties were concerned.
Being on the trips of President Atta-Mills, therefore, was not about fun: it was all about hard work and ensuring that the President – as the number one story teller in the Republic; told his stories in ways that the citizenry would appreciate the stoic efforts their chosen Leader was making to build the Better Ghana, he promised.
Let me state without any equivocation that, President Atta-Mills had serious issues with the tight occupancy space of the Falcon 900 EXE.
In other words, the Falcon does not have the needed capacity and what it really takes to be a Jet that is well-equipped for the use of Presidents.
I am sure all those who have had the privilege to travel on the Falcon, would not say anything different from what I am saying because facts are facts.
Apart from the occupancy challenges, on very long hauls, the Falcon would have to land at a destination and re-fuel at least once, before reaching its final destination.
Being the kind of person that he was, rather than “inconvenience” himself with stopping to re-fuel and sitting tight, on the long hauls, President Atta-Mills preferred to travel via commercial flights – though it had its own security challenges and implications.
In the wake of all the bigotry-laden extremism that has allowed certain persons to target commercial flights for bombing; we cannot be too sure which commercial flight would be next.
No matter how daring the extremists have been or have become, I am yet to hear of any dedicated jet/plane of any President being bombed.
The last time I heard of a plane carrying a President being downed; was, on the evening of, April 06, 1994, when the aircraft carrying Rwandan President, Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was shot down with surface-to-air missiles as it prepared to land in Kigali, Rwanda, after taking-off from, Dar es Salaam International Airport, Tanzania.
From my experience, and that really is the fact; serious-minded Presidents do not travel on official trips for fun.
Presidents travel on official trips to conduct very serious business on behalf of nations.
From my experience, on the short hauls that allowed President Atta-Mills to fly the Falcon or F28, the ability to have approved Advisors and Aides on the flight made it possible for the President to still work effectively while airborne.
A lot of work took place on the flights and it also allowed the President to freely update himself with memos, speeches, and other official documents before arriving at his inward/outward destination.
On commercial flights however, the President was virtually limited and incapacitated as far as access to his Advisors and Aides are concerned.
Most certainly, a well tooled Jet for the use of a President in modern times, would also have the needed communications gadgets that would allow the President to have a, Command-and-Control platform that would enable him still be the Commander-in-Chief while in flight.
Let us not forget that no matter how long a Vice President acts in the stead of a President, the Vice President CANNOT become the Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces until he takes the oath of office as the President of the Republic of Ghana.
For emphasis; I re-state the point that, travelling with President John Evans Atta-Mills, was not for fun: it was all about hard work!!!
For me therefore, those calling for the need to purchase a new Presidential Jet, should give the nation stronger reasons beyond very mundane ones such as the President needing to shower in the plane.
A certain experience in 1953, made the United States of America name the plane that the President flies – “Airforce One”, and fact has it that, the name Air Force One, was chosen, and is still being used purely for “Communication Purposes”.
Since Ghana has a penchant for “copying” so much; is it not about time we copied the rationale behind the “Communication Purpose” for which the plane flying a President of America, is called, Air Force One?
For “Communication Purpose”, so as to avoid all the medusa-like hydra-headed neck-deep suffocating debates, why not call ours, “THE EAGLE”?
Apart from being the most powerful bird on earth, the EAGLE is the National Bird of the Republic of Ghana – that is why we have it on our Coat-of-Arms.
Just imagine waking up on a Monday Morning and hearing the news headlines scream – THE EAGLE HAS LANDED!!!.
Compare that to – THE PRESIDENTIAL JET HAS LANDED!!!
From a purely communications perspective, the eardrum of the Republic of Ghana will be much more comfortable, hearing, “THE EAGLE HAS LANDED, as compared to hearing, “THE PRESIDENTIAL JET HAS LANDED”.
Does the Republic of Ghana need a plane that fits into the flying demands of the exigencies of the time vis the travels of our Presidents (the current one and others to come)?
After all, does the EAGLE not have more stronger and powerful talons the FALCON?
Let the EAGLE land and let it last for decades!!!
Samuel Koku Anyidoho
Founder & CEO, Atta-Mills Institute
Public Policy & Civic Education Advocate