The Prime Minister’s RAF Voyager has taken to the skies for the first time since its £900,000 revamp.
Glinting in the sun, the jet’s new white paint job — with a Union flag on the tail fin and United Kingdom written in gold on the fuselage — was on display as it took from off from Cambridge Airport on Thursday afternoon.
Boris Johnson had previously complained about the grey military paint scheme used on the jet.
But the cost of the respray was condemned by opposition politicians when it was revealed earlier this month.
Downing Street said the work would cost “around £900,000” and would mean that the plane could better represent the UK around the world with “national branding”.
Officials have insisted the plane would still be able to fulfil its military role as an air-to-air refuelling tanker.
At the time the price tag was revealed, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “That incorporates the cost of creating a design that will promote the UK around the world without compromising the plane’s vital military role.
“At every stage we have worked to ensure value for money for the UK taxpayer and all of the work has been undertaken in the UK, directly benefiting British suppliers.”
But Welsh Labour MP Carolyn Harris said: “£900,000 to put a flag on the Prime Minister’s plane. That could pay for 60,000 free school meal vouchers.”
Acting leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ed Davey added: “The drug dexamethasone, that can potentially save the lives of people with coronavirus, costs £5 per patient.
“Boris Johnson could have bought 180,000 doses of that, but instead he’s painting a flag on a plane.”
Mr Johnson has previously questioned why the plane was grey, and while foreign secretary in 2018, he said he would like a “Brexit plane” to help him travel the world.
He also complained about the unavailability of the aircraft, adding: “It never seems to be available. I don’t know who uses it, but it never seems to be available.”
The plane is used by Mr Johnson and other ministers, as well as members of the Royal Family.
It was being flown from Cambridge Airport to its base at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.