Mills Must Come Clean

Contrary to claims by government that the Embraer 190 aircraft is being acquired as a “Strategic Airlift Aircraft” to “significantly enhance the operations of the Ghana Armed forces, especially in its peacekeeping operations,” the New Statesman can reveal that the Embraer 190 is not built to airlift military personnel. It is a commercial aircraft, pure and simple. The only difference is that Ghana’s order has been enhanced, at an extra cost, to serve as a presidential/executive jet. Indeed, the acquisition of the E190 would make lower middle income Ghana the only country to acquire a commercial jet, and spend an extra $1 million to enhance it to first class, executive status and classify it as a troops’ carrier! E190 is the plane that Sarah Palin used for her two-month campaign as running mate to US Republican presidential candidate John McCain in 2008. New Statesman investigations show that out of the over 1,000 firm orders from 60 companies in 40 countries and the more than 750 Embraer jets delivered, Ghana is the only client which has ordered an E190 to be used as a military transport jet. A former Ghana Airways pilot told our reporter, “Commercial jets are not bought to sit in a hanger until troops have to be lifted occasionally for a peacekeeping mission. It is like buying a Yutong bus to take your wife to the market once a month.” Our checks also suggest that there is no model described as E190 SAA, as indicated by Government in the purchase to Parliament. The Embraer 190, with seating capacity of 100, is similar to (but slightly smaller than) the Airbus A319 (which sits 120), which President Kufuor had contracted to acquire and his successor cancelled as “profligate expenditure”. On Thursday, 23rd April 2009, barely 2 months after President Mills had stated in his first state of the nation address that “we will review the decision to purchase two executive presidential aircrafts because Ghana simply cannot afford the expenditure at this time”, representatives from Embraer, led by Antonio Neubarth flew to Accra to make a presentation to Vice President John Mahama, Lt. Gen JH Smith and the Military High Command for the purchase of the Embraer 190. At that time, Embraer was not a manufacturer of any military transport aircraft. A week prior to the presentation made by Embraer to Ghanaian officials, however, Embraer had signed a contract with the Brazilian Air Force to begin the production of the KC-390 military transport program, an aircraft specifically designed to serve as a military transport aircraft, serving as a troop carrier and effective cargo and tanker aircraft and estimated at a fully-kitted, total flat cost of $50 million per unit. Thus, if the Ghanaian officials wanted a military transport aircraft, as Government has sought to project this purchase, they ought to have known that the E190 was not it and if it had to be an Embraer then it had to be the then yet to be manufactured KC-390, which made its first flight in 2011.