New Zealand leader uses the backup jet to China due to plane failures 2023

Air Force One, a presidential command center, can refuel aloft.

Betty, New Zealand’s elderly Boeing 757, is so prone to problems that authorities dispatched an empty backup on Monday to assure Prime Minister Chris Hipkins didn’t get stuck in China, where he is heading a trade team.

Officials noted that the plane’s twin had only been despatched to Manila, 80% of the way from Wellington to Beijing.

Acting Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni explained in New Zealand.

“If we didn’t have a backup plan and something did happen, and of course we hope it won’t, then not only would they be stranded in China, but the cost that would incur—in terms of accommodation and trying to, at the last minute, organize some kind of plan to get them back—would outweigh having a backup aircraft waiting somewhere just in case,” she said.

The prime minister’s twin Royal New Zealand Air Force jets are 30 years old and will be replaced by 2030. They break frequently. In 2016, then-Prime Minister John Key and a group were stranded in Australia until a New Zealand jet arrived. Key called the cancellation of his Mumbai leg “suboptimal.”

Sepuloni didn’t think Hipkins and the 80 others on Betty, the plane, were in danger.

Political opponents pounced.

“My understanding is there hasn’t been any event midair or in transit that should cause any concern,” she added.

“This government declared a climate emergency and says we need to deal seriously with China,” said opposition ACT leader David Seymour. This gesture has mocked the government’s climate urgency and its desire to be taken seriously by a country with a burgeoning blue-water fleet in our backyard.

Sepuloni recognized the problem.

Sepuloni acknowledged that the equipment needed updating. That’s planned. That’s not occurring yet.”

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