A China Airlines' Airbus A340-300 will carry first lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) from Taipei to Frankfurt tonight for a nine-day European trip.
The aircraft, equipped with eight first-class seats each costing US$200,000, was imported to Taiwan for the first time in 2001. First-class passengers can lie down stretched out on their airbeds, enjoy personal TVs and call whoever they want by satellite telephones.
"About 30 distinguished guests and 30 reporters will also be taking the 285-seat airplane. The rest of the seats are for ordinary passengers," said Roger Han (韓粱中), spokesman for the airline.
Captain David Tai (戴旭東), who flew President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to Africa for his 10-day trip touring Taiwan's five allies on the continent last July, will fly the president's wife to Germany tonight.
Chen also took an Airbus A340-300 during his African trip. Tai described the airbus as one of the world's quietest, most efficient and safest passenger aircrafts.
Tai introduced his three co-pilots operating the airplane at a press conference yesterday. The seasoned pilots' experience ranges from 4,000 flying hours to 6,000 flying hours.
Tai said he felt calm about the mission.
"I think a calm mind is very important. Our team serves every passenger with the same attitude," said the 41-year-old pilot with 5,872 hours flying experience.
The two-year-old airbus will take off from Taipei's CKS International Airport at 11:30pm and land at Frankfurt at 6:50am local time tomorrow.
The 13-hour-and-20-minute journey will pass over South Korea, North Korea, the Japan Sea, Russia, Finland and Sweden before the plane reaches Frankfurt.
To ensure comfortable movement for the wheelchair-bound Wu, the airline prepared a wheelchair specially designed for use in aircrafts.
The airline also sought palatable satisfaction for its honored guests. Mak Hung (
"We asked the Presidential Office what the first lady likes to eat on the airplane. The Presidential Office told us she did not have special requests for food," Han said.
Han said the airline designed European, Chinese and Japanese meal sets for Wu. "One of our passengers' favorite traditional Taiwanese delicacies, Tainan sticky rice cake, will be served," Han added.
Delicious dishes such as shrimp in mango cup, steamed sea bream fish in oyster sauce, steamed beef noodle soup enhanced with tomato, and lobster pancake with smoky breads and pastry are on the plane's menu.
Chef Mak, who once served Chen and former President Lee Teng-hui (
Both presidents loved ordinary people's food. "They ate anything edible and particularly liked homemade food," said Mak, who also designed homemade food for Wu.
Purser Wang Hsiu-yueh (王秀月) and manager Lo Shen (羅申) will head the airbus' 15-member crew. Both will be on their first trip serving a member of the first family.
Wang, who has served the airline for 19 years, said the crew's primary goal is to create a home-like atmosphere on the airplane for their distinguished guests.
Upon arrival at Frankfurt, Wu will change to a local aircraft to fly to Berlin, where she will preside over the opening ceremony of the exhibition "Treasures of the Sons of Heaven: The Imperial Collection from the National Palace Museum."