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Aerospace & Defense

Japan's retired 'Air Force One' for sale online for $28m

Plane that carried emperor and prime ministers looks 'factory new,' site says

The Japanese Air Force One carried the emperor and 14 prime ministers across the world over 26 years. (Photo by Toshiki Sasazu)

NEW YORK -- Japan's equivalent of Air Force One, retired from service in March, is now available for purchase on an aviation website for a grand bargain of $28 million.

A 1991 Boeing 747-400 jet has been listed on Controller.com by U.S.-based CSDS Aircraft Sales & Leasing, with pictures of the exterior and meeting rooms in the specialized plane. "Aircraft has been maintained to the highest possible standard. Shows like new," the website writes as its selling point.

The plane debuted in 1993 as the Japanese government's first-ever official craft. The decision to buy two planes from Boeing to serve as government aircraft was made in 1987 during the years of Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, when Japan was pressed by the Reagan administration to reduce its trade surplus with the U.S.

For 26 years, the planes have chauffeured the Japanese emperor and 14 prime ministers.

On June 29, 2002, the Japanese Air Force One encountered an unexpected hitchhiker, by the name of Gerhard Schroeder. Seeing that the German soccer team had reached the World Cup final in Japan scheduled for the next day, the German chancellor turned to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a fellow attendee at the Group of Eight summit in Canada, and asked if he could hop on his plane to fly to Yokohama.

In an unprecedented move, Koizumi welcomed Schroeder onto the plane and offered the chancellor his VIP suite as they flew for 10 hours to Japan. They watched the World Cup final together the next day, but much to Schroeder's disappointment, Germany lost 2-0 to Brazil.

Then-Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko fly in the Japanese Air Force One on a visit to Vietnam in February 2017. (Photo by Shinya Sawai)

By rule, the government always flew both Air Force One planes to a foreign destination, one followed by the other 30 minutes later, to serve as an emergency backup if the first aircraft had mechanical issues.

The two planes were retired this spring as the government moved on to the more fuel-efficient Boeing 777-300ER. The two old planes were sold in May to a recycling company in Japan's Shizuoka Prefecture for a little over $12 million. One of the craft seems to have ended up in the U.S.

The posting in Controller.com describes the plane as having one of the lowest flying times for a 747-400 in the world at 16,332 hours.

While in service, the Air Force One had a 33-sq.-meter VIP room at the front of the plane, 21 seats in business class for the accompanying delegation and 89 economy-class seats for the traveling press.

"Bed room, Shower, office and lounge area. Aircraft will be delivered fresh from C-check and paint. This looks like a factory new aircraft," the website touts.

When the Japanese government ordered the planes in 1987, it allocated 36 billion yen ($339 million at current rates) in the national budget for the two planes.

The $28 million price may be a bargain.

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