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‘Wing of Zion,’ prime minister’s new plane, completes maiden test flight

Jet’s main systems ‘worked as normal,’ reports Israel Aerospace Industries, after successful four-hour trial in the sky; brakes had malfunctioned last week

The 'Wing of Zion,' the Israeli version of Air Force One, is seen above Ben Gurion Airport, on its first test flight, November 3, 2019. (Yoav Weiss/Israel Aerospace Industries)
The 'Wing of Zion,' the Israeli version of Air Force One, is seen above Ben Gurion Airport, on its first test flight, November 3, 2019. (Yoav Weiss/Israel Aerospace Industries)

A specially kitted-out airplane, to be used by the prime minister and the president for official visits abroad, made its first test flight Sunday, after two years of preparation, passing with flying colors — blue and white.

The Boeing 767-300ER aircraft, which has been described as Israel’s Air Force One, the codename for a plane carrying the US president, will be known as the “Wing of Zion,” according to Hebrew media reports.

Taking off from Ben Gurion Airport at 10.45 a.m., the plane landed four-and-a-half hours later, at 3.15 p.m.

An air force Black Hawk helicopter and another plane snapped photos of the maiden journey.

The prime minister’s plane, a Boeing 767, the Israeli version of Air Force One, seen on its first flight test above Tel Aviv on November 3, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

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.

Pilots “checked the planes main systems which worked as normal,” said Israel Aerospace Industries, which outfitted the former passenger plane over the last two years, in a statement.

“This is the first test flight of a series of additional flights and tests to be conducted later by the aerospace division’s professional engineering team,” IAI said.

The testing will continue over several months.

The plane was unveiled on Thursday, when a test run at Ben Gurion Airport, ahead of its first takeoff, was overshadowed by a brake malfunction that prompted officials to briefly declare an emergency alert.

A Boeing 767-300ER plane remodeled as an Israeli version of Air Force One, during a test run at Ben Gurion Airport, on October 31, 2019. (Israel Aerospace Industries)

The company said that 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 Australian carrier Qantas.

The project has caused controversy, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s critics denouncing it as unnecessary and overly costly.

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