Questions have been raised about the security of globetrotting President Mokgweetsi Masisi, with suggestions that it could be compromised as there are only two VIP pilots and one cabin crew attendant for OK1, sources at the army have revealed.
Some senior pilots at Botswana Defence Force (BDF) are said to be worried that the safety of the Head of State is compromised as his tight travel schedule demands that he have more than two pilots. “Although the Bombardier BD-700 Global Express can be put on auto pilot for a long haul, it is important that at least they have four pilots and two cabin crew members to avoid a situation whereby one of the pilots is not well,” revealed a senior army officer.
According to sources within the army during former President Ian Khama's tenure as President they had at least three pilots and in most cases Air Arm Command Major General Innocent Phatshwane flew him. In the same vein, even the South African Presidential jet Boeing 737 (BBJ (Inkwazi) always carries four pilots.
However another an aviation expert who refused to be named for security reasons says that there is nothing wrong with OK1 manned by only two pilots. “Bombardier BD-700 Global Express is an advanced aircraft and pilots are only needed when it takes off and when it lands or when it experiences turbulence but most of the time when on flight it is just on auto pilot,” he reasoned, adding that the aircraft is one of the most comfortable.
Contacted for comment, Director of Protocol and Public Affairs at BDF Major Fana Maswabi said they cannot release information about deployment of their personnel for operational purposes under any circumstances.“The BDF complies with flight safety regulations and takes HE’s safety as a priority. Therefore, the assertion you are making is not true,” he said in a written response.
There have been concerns from some quarters that some of the BDF military aircrafts are too old and are way past their prime, which increases the possibility of accidents.
Last month (September)when government took journalists on a fact finding mission around allegations of elephant poaching in the Okavango delta and Chobe area using the BDF C130 aircraft also known as Hercules, another one left heading for Reunion Islands. On its way the C130 aircraft experienced engine malfunction and had to make an emergency landing on an Island. “Soldiers manning the aircraft were stranded for two days waiting for the one that took journalists to Kasane to come back and rescue them,” a source revealed.
Major Maswabi confirmed that indeed a BDF C130 aircraft enroute to Reunion Islands experienced engine malfunction but explained that the emergency landing cannot be classified as an accident. “The engine failure did not compromise safety in any way since the aircraft is equipped with four engines. As an additional safety measure, BDF pilots are adequately trained on asymmetric flight to enable them to handle such situations. The BDF takes issues of safety very seriously and the incident is being investigated to avert similar occurrences,” he said in a written response.