Liberals face prickly decision over fate of controversial Challenger jets

Liberals face prickly decision over fate of controversial Challenger jets

OTTAWA — The clock is ticking on the federal government’s fleet of Challenger executive planes, as outdated technology on two of the four aircraft mean they will no longer be allowed to fly in many countries — or even in Canada — in the next few years.

The need to replace the Challengers was flagged to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a memo from officials following the election, but making such a decision could be easier said than done given the controversy that has long attached itself to the planes.

Countries are phasing in new standards requiring modern navigation systems on all aircraft, and while the technology on the two Challengers purchased in the early 2000s is OK, updating the two from the 1980s will be prohibitively expensive.

Yet replacing them could be politically sensitive, as federal governments have been criticized in the past for using the small, private aircraft to fly the prime minister, cabinet ministers and other dignitaries to various destinations.

Previous governments have said the planes, which can carry nine passengers, are required for security purposes, but opposition parties have routinely tried to portray the issue as one of entitlement and waste.

The government did buy itself some time when it inked an agreement in December that lets the two aircraft continue to fly in the U.S., but other countries are starting to bring in the same technological standards, which Canada itself will implement between 2021 and 2023.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2020.

The Canadian Press

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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