JUST 20 minutes after take-off from Bratislava Airport, an aircraft carrying Defence Minister Martin Glváč to Paris had to make an emergency landing on July 14 because of an error of the fuel regulation system. The incident has sparked a debate about renewing the government’s air fleet.

Glváč was on his way to Paris, where he was due to attend a military parade marking Bastille Day and the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. At an altitude of 1,200 metres, the pilot noted that one of the engines of the plane, a JAK-40 aircraft belonging to the Slovak Interior Ministry, was not functioning properly, according to the TASR newswire.

“This concerned a higher temperature of output gases, a lower rotation speed of the high-pressure compressor and a lower pressure in fuel injection,” said Interior Ministry spokeswoman Lucia Kirinovičová, as quoted by TASR, adding that the crew then decided to return to Bratislava Airport to make sure that no foreign object had been sucked into the jet engine.

Various politicians and field experts responded to the incident, pointing to the condition of government planes. Currently, the Slovak government has at its disposal two smaller JAK–40 planes issued for short and medium distances, and two bigger TU–154M planes used for medium and long distances. The JAKs, however, are 40 and 35 years old, and the Tupolevs have been in service for 25 and 16 years, the Pravda daily reported.

One option is to buy a used airplane from abroad that would be newer and technologically superior to the current planes.

“We have already conducted some discussions with Italy and there are still some negotiations with other countries,” Interior Ministry spokesman Ivan Netík told Pravda.

Another idea is to merge fleets from the Interior and Defence ministries. Nevertheless, all previous attempts to deal with the situation met mainly with financial problems. Newer airplanes similar to the TU–154 could cost from $65 to $80 million, while smaller ones with a capacity of up to 15 people cost around $18 million, Pravda reported.

Aircraft expert and former deputy of Slovak Army chief-of-general-staff Peter Švec opined that buying new planes is economically ineffective. He proposes renting planes from private companies, according to the SITA newswire.