An Israeli version of Air Force One, the codename for a plane carrying the US president, took off Sunday for its first test flight after two years of preparation.
The plane was unveiled on Thursday, when a test run at Ben Gurion Airport ahead of its first takeoff was shadowed by a brake malfunction that prompted officials to briefly declare an emergency alert.
The Boeing 767-300ER aircraft will be used by the prime minister and the president for official visits abroad.
The plane took off for a short flight Sunday morning, accompanied by a Black Hawk helicopter and another plane that snapped photos of the maiden journey.
The aircraft’s official name is 4X-ISR. “4X” is part of the name of all Israeli aircraft, and the remaining letters are meant to signify that it is the official plane of the State of Israel.
אייר פורס 1 הישראלי ממריא. pic.twitter.com/l2jhDvrm5J
— nir dvori (@ndvori) November 3, 2019
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) reworked the former passenger plane over the last two years for its new purpose.
The company said it had developed and installed “sophisticated technological systems” that enable secure communications and ensure its safety. According to IAI, the plane can reach the United States, China, Japan and Brazil without stopovers.
The government has so far approved NIS 729 million ($206 million) for the purchasing and remodeling of the plane, which had previously served for almost 20 years as a passenger plane for an Australian airline.
The project has caused controversy, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s critics denouncing it as unnecessary and overly costly.
On Thursday, Blue and White’s Yair Lapid wrote on Facebook: “Five years ago Bibi brought his plane purchase to the government. The price tag was NIS 170 million ($48 million). I voted against. I told him, ‘You don’t need this plane, not when this country can’t fund emergency rooms.’ Nothing helped.
“Today they unveiled the plane. The price tag? NIS 729 million. Nobody even bothered to explain how it became half a billion shekels more expensive, but it is still unnecessary. When we’re in the government we’ll sell it and direct the money to places that actually need it,” he added.