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Air force chopping two Challengers from fleet

June 27, 2014, Ottawa - The Air Force is chopping the size of its fleet of executive jets used by the prime minister, the governor general and other VIPs, a move the federal government says will free up money that can be used for other priorities like search-and-rescue operations.


June 27, 2014
By The Ottawa Sun

QMI Agency has learned that Defence Minister Rob Nicholson will
announce Friday that two of the six CC-144 Challenger aircraft have been
taken out of service immediately.

 

The defence department believes that will free up $1.5 million a year
to be spent on what the department calls "higher priorities."

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Trimming the Challenger fleet will be a highly visible symbol of one
of the chief tasks facing Nicholson: moving spending away from what the
government thinks are non-essential tasks, like operating executive VIP
aircraft, to core, front-line work like search-and-rescue operations.
Nicholson is trying to find between $750 million and $1.2 billion a year
of spending within his budget that can be moved this way.

 

Last year, the defence department spent nearly $23 billion, easily
the most of any government department, and its political masters have
said that spending needs to shrink.

 

Canada acquired its first Challenger jet in 1982. The most recent one
came into the fleet in 2002. The jets are made by Montreal-based
Bombardier. Each can seat nine passengers and carries a crew of two
pilots, a flight engineer and a flight steward.

 

Use of the Challenger jet has long been a favourite whip used by opposition parties to beat up the government of the day.

 

When he was opposition leader, Stephen Harper used to complain about
how Paul Martin and the Liberals used the jets and, now that he's PM,
Harper is getting the same slings and arrows from his opposition.

 

The Harper government, though, has sharply cut back on Challenger
use. From 2006 — when the Conservatives took over — until 2012, the
fleet was in the air for an average of 753 hours a year. By contrast,
from 2000 through to 2005, when the Liberals were in government, the
Challengers flew an average of 1,829 hours a year, according to defence
department data.