As Royal Canadian Air Force technicians scrambled to fix a problem that grounded the prime minister’s aircraft in New Delhi this week, Canadian officials reportedly turned down offers by India’s government to lend their executive aircraft to get Canada’s entourage home.
Reports on Tuesday from Indian newswire Asian News International (ANI) suggest officials in New Delhi offered to ferry Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his delegation back to Ottawa aboard Air India One — one of two Indian Air Force Boeing 777-300ERs used to transport top Indian officials.
Indian news reports state PMO officials declined the offer about six hours after it was made, saying Trudeau allegedly preferred to return home on a Canadian aircraft.
“This offer was made 24 hours before Justin Trudeau’s eventual departure,” wrote WION defence reporter Sidhant Sibal on Twitter.
“Canada conveyed regret 6 hours after the offer and said that they will wait for their plane.”
Inquiries to the PMO by the National Post regarding the Indian government’s offer went unacknowledged.
Forbidden by policy to fly commercially, Canada’s prime ministers rely on the Royal Canadian Air Force for air travel.
For the week-long trip to attend the ASEAN summit in Jakarta and this week’s G20 summit in New Delhi, Trudeau and his delegation travelled to Asia aboard 15001, a three-decade old RCAF CC-150 Polaris transport plane normally used when the prime minister travels outside of Canada.
Well past the end of their useful life, Canada’s CC-150 fleet — originally Airbus A310-300 airliners purchased in the late 1980s by defunct Canadian airline Wardair — have been plagued with problems.
Scheduled to leave New Delhi for Ottawa on Sunday, Trudeau had to delay his departure after the plane suffered an as-of-yet unknown mechanical problem that grounded the plane.
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Plane 15002 — Canada’s only non-tanker-configured Polaris still able to fly — was dispatched from CFB Trenton, carrying a technician and a replacement part for the disabled airliner.
15003, Canada’s other passenger-configured Polaris, has been stuck at an American air force base in Guam since July after it rolled out of its wheel chocks and collided with a French Air Force plane — tearing a deep gash in its rudder.
Travelling to the U.K. and then onto Rome, the technician disembarked from the rescue plane and then travelled on to India with the spare part via a commercial flight, where CANFORCE ONE was successfully repaired.
“The second aircraft remained in Rome on standby in case aircraft 001 could not be repaired in a timely manner, but is now expected to return home to Canada shortly,” said Department of National Defence spokesperson Jessica Lamirande.
The prime minister’s plane arrived back in Ottawa late Tuesday evening, while the rescue plane is, as of Wednesday afternoon, en route back to Canada after a brief stop in Glasgow.