Government turned down deal to purchase two new aircraft because of concerns about lack of storage space and pilots

The Irish government was offered a special deal to buy two new aircraft for €8.3 million but opted to buy only one amid concerns over a shortage of pilots and available hangar space.

The new Pilatus PC-12 NG was purchased in March under special EU rules that allows normal procurement practices to be put aside in “crisis situations”.

Amongst the reasons put forward for its purchase were maintenance concerns around the government Learjet and the fact that two other Air Corps planes had amassed more flying hours than almost any comparable aircraft in the world.

Internal Department of Defence records reveal concerns were raised about how the Taoiseach, and other senior ministers would be able to leave the country at short notice given the lack of available state aircraft.

A “security sensitive” briefing note – which has been released under FOI – said emergency travel might be required arising from the Covid-19 pandemic or other “Brexit-related travel”.

The note said: “Commercial travel in the current developing situations may be unavailable, unreliable, insecure or too risky to contemplate.”