The Israeli version of Air Force One, which the previous government stored before entering service, completed another test flight on Monday as it sped up its commissioning.
The “Zion Wing” project, which cost about NIS 750 million ($241 million) and required years to equip, was designed to be used by Israeli heads of state on official business.
It was commissioned during the tenure of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is intimately connected with him, but neither past Prime Minister Naftali Bennett nor Yair Lapid nor President Isaac Herzog touched the plane.
Last year, the Defense Ministry announced that it would put the Boeing 767 into storage just months after the plane received final clearance to take off. However, under the new government, the aircraft has recently undergone a series of ground checks and test flights.
According to Walla, the Zion Wing’s most recent mission began at the Nevatim airfield in the nation’s south, continued with aerial maneuvers, and concluded at Ben Gurion airport. The plane touched down for maintenance and then flew back to Nevatim.
State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman said the average flight cost on the new plane would be roughly double that of chartering a private jet for official business in a scathing report released last year.
Furthermore, Englman argued that the average prime ministerial flight only carries 61 passengers, which calls into question the need for a jet with a capacity of 100 to 120.
However, Englman said that the new plane is “a clear improvement over the previous situation … in the level of security, including the defense of the plane and the security of information.” Others have pointed out that the expected costs of future flights declared by the controller include the already amortized costs of their creation.
The 20-year-old Boeing 767 aircraft has undergone extensive renovations and now features a private office for the Prime Minister, a bedroom with its own bathroom and shower, a fully equipped kitchen, a meeting space, and even a “war room.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid publicly advocated for the sale of “Zion’s Wing” after the March comptroller’s report, claiming that the publication “represents everything that was crooked and broken in the Netanyahu regime.”