With the Airbus A321, we have a new government aircraft. Our Federal Chancellor, our Foreign Minister and even our Federal President – they will all use this aircraft in future. Before the official commissioning of the modified Airbus, Bundeswehr pilots proceed to final tests and flight training. “With the Airbus A321, the Special Air Mission Wing has received a state-of-the-art aircraft. The A320 family includes the A319, A320, and A321, and with this A321 we currently not only carry out test flights, but also training flights for the pilots so that they can familiarize themselves with the aircraft dimensions that differ from those of the A319.“ With a view to flight safety, a so-called “walk-around” takes place prior to takeoff. Landing gear, engines, fuselage – Commander and flight instructor Michael Weyerer checks the aircraft together with his pilots and points out both the common features with and the differences from previous government aircraft. “The A321 is roughly 10 meters longer, and this difference in length makes all the difference in flying. That’s what we just want to practice once again with the pilots.” Also on board along with the pilots is the cabin crew. Felicitas and Thomas are members of the service team and can draw on many years of experience in all VIP aircraft of the Special Air Mission Wing. “The interior design is similar to that of the A340 and our A319. Everything has been customized. Here, for example, the difference between the A321 and the A319 is that we have this additional Economy area. In the A319, we only have the rear part. As they say, this is the German Air Force One. Many things have been changed. In the front, we have the private area for the VIP. This is followed by a conference area, where meals are served or press conferences are held, and the separate area we see here is reserved for members of the media and of the protocol services as well as of the BKA (Federal Criminal Police Office), the bodyguards of the VIPs concerned, so to speak.” “Obviously, we meet people we would never happen upon in the street or without bodyguards. And here we are in direct contact with a VIP from the Bundestag or a Ministry and can sometimes even have some small talk with the VIP aboard.” Following simulator training, the pilots now need touchdown training in order to familiarize themselves with the aircraft in real flight. “The cockpit is said to be the same. Only some switches have been integrated in another way. But that does not make any major difference, and therefore it should be possible to fly the aircraft the same as the A319. The tricky point, however, is the length of the tail. When rotating during take-off, we must be careful not to touch the runway with the tail of the aircraft. Shortly before touch-down, we have to pull up the nose of the aircraft a little bit in order to ensure a soft landing. And being right on the mark in this respect is different for the A321and the A319.” “The reason why we either train at Schwerin Parchim or at Frankfurt Hahn is that their runways are long enough for these training flights and the flight conditions there allow us carrying out our training flights without any disturbances.” “We follow an airfield traffic pattern here. That means we follow a standard path, while maintaining visual contact with the airfield, then level off for final approach and touchdown.” During his/her flight and touchdown training, every pilot will proceed to a minimum of seven Touch and Go’s. The aim is to get the aircraft on the ground at about 1,000 feet, i.e. about 300 meters from the start of the runway, in the “touch-down zone” and then go back into the air while still in motion. Flight Instructor Michael Weyerer provides his pilots with feedback. “When touching down as perfectly as you did just now, the middle of 20 feet is fully sufficient, a little bit more for the break due to the slope, but then 20 feet is the right point in time. You were a little bit too early just now, but otherwise, the stabilization was perfect. We will do that again, and then, as I said, with the break at 20 feet.” After several hours of training, the pilots have passed the practical test of Touch and Go’s. In future, they will carry up to 84 passengers onboard the A321 on medium-range flights within Europe and as far as North America. “I have been with the Special Air Mission Wing for 13 years, and instead of flying for commercial airlines that use the same aircraft, the major appeal of my work here was and still is that we do not have a strict flight plan, that means flying the same routes every day or every month. For us, each flight is a challenge of its own. We fly to new and very different destinations, which makes our work very interesting.” With the 9th VIP aircraft for government flights the crews will again be very busy. What is certain, however, is that the personnel of the Special Air Mission Wing are perfectly prepared for flight operations with their latest aircraft.