Wed, Aug 23, 2006 - Page 3 News List

`Air Force One' can handle long flights: ministry

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Reports in the Chinese-language media have questioned whether the air force's presidential flight section was capable of carrying out international flights, but a military spokesman sought to ease these fears yesterday.

After media reports asserted that the air force had run out of fuel, Ministry of National Defense Spokesman Rear Admiral Wu Chi-fang (吳季方) assured reporters that the military had enough fuel to fly President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to Palau next month.

But, he pointed out, the air force had yet to receive any orders regarding such a trip.

"The reserve fuel for `Air Force One' between the period of January and July is maintained at 170,000 gallons [643,520 liters]. We only consumed 150,000 gallons of that, so we are still in good shape. If the president needs the plane in the air, the air force will be able to afford the necessary fuel," Wu said.

"But, we have yet to receive any orders for the trip as of this moment," Wu said.

Wu sought to defuse allegations that taxpayers would have to pay extra to cover the cost of fuel for the trip.

Some of the reports also questioned whether the air force was capable of making international flights.

Wu said that the air force could gear up for such a trip whenever necessary. The spokesman explained that missions were ordered at the direction of the Presidential Office.

Wu added that air force pilots were experienced in making long-distance flights.

"For instance, we sent out C-130 Hercules' [cargo aircraft] to transport necessary supply and rescue items to Singapore after the tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2004 and the mission was accomplished," Wu said.

"We definitely have the skills and abilities for international flights. However, we have not received any orders," Wu reiterated.

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