Back in August, we were first to report that an ultra luxurious, state-of-the-art jumbo jet that belonged to the Qatari royal flight was up for sale. A month later we were the first to point out the aircraft's peculiar voyage from Bazal to Istanbul. At the time, we posited that the lavish 747-8i would join Turkey's growing fleet of government-owned flying yachts. Now, this aircraft has emerged wearing a bold new paint scheme that leaves zero doubt as to its new owner and purpose.
The jet, originally registered VQ-BSK, now carries the registration TC-TRK. Gone is its maroon and yellow paint scheme. Now it is adorned in the same brightly striped red 'swoosh' scheme found on other Turkish government VVIP transports ranging in size from Gulfstream private jets to quad-engine A340 widebody airlines. The newly minted TC-TRK also has large titles painted on its sides that read REPUBLIC OF TURKEY on one side in English with the same thing on the other side in Turkish.
The aircraft has been at Sabiha Gökçen Airport in Istanbul since taking its roundabout acceptance flight from Basel Airport in France some three weeks ago. It had been undergoing modifications and receiving its new paint job under tight security in Turkish Technic's hangar there before it reemerged and took to the air once again on October 5th, 2018.
After our report on the aircraft's mysterious flight to Turkey, Ankara was bombarded with questions about the aircraft's status. Turkish officially begrudgingly said it was a gift from Qatar. That is quite the claim considering the aircraft costs nearly $400M new, and that's just for the aircraft itself. Its ornate interior and unique features—like a gyro-stabilized surgical bed—cost many millions more.
Eventually, Erdogan himself opined on the topic, saying the Turkish government had high interest in the jet before Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Al Thani gifted the plane to Turkey free of charge—at least that is what the Turkish strongman claims. Turkey's economy is in a bad place right now. Using taxpayer funds for what many would consider one of the ultimate luxury machines on the planet clearly wouldn't sit well with many Turkish citizens or the opposing political establishment. And it's not like Erdogan hasn't come under fire for procuring extreme luxuries in the name of the Turkish government and prestige of the Turkish people in the past.
Who knows what the true terms of the deal are, but it seems highly unlikely Qatar would fork over a half billion dollar asset to Turkey with absolutely no strings attached. But it's undeniable that Turkey and Qatar have a close relationship in both a strategic and economic sense, with both sides coming to each other's aid during recent crises. The jet could very well be seen as partial repayment for Turkey's helping hand in the deep geopolitical roe Qatar has experienced with its Arab neighbors. But is another wide-body luxury jet really something Turkey needs right now? I don't think many would attempt to make that case.
Erdogan capped off his comments to reporters about the jet by stating:
“The plane they mention is now being painted... God willing, we can have a trip with it when all is over.”
That may have already happened as the aircraft was tracked flying from Istanbul to Antalya and then to Izmir, located on the picturesque Aegean Sea, before heading to the Turkish captial of Ankara.
The lord works in mysterious ways!
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com