London: Nicolas Sarkozy's dream of having his own presidential aircraft to rival the US' Air Force One will soon come true as the French President has ordered an "Air Sarko One", fitted with an air filter system so that he can smoke whenever he wants.
A specially-upholstered GBP 150-million Airbus A330-200 has been selected for the purpose and will be ready by October. It will include a meeting room, 60 business class seats, encrypted communications systems and a missile decoy system, the Daily Mail reported.
Sarkozy was reportedly unhappy with his Airbus A319s, which he said "lacked the necessary presidential stature" and were smaller than the Boeing 747-200B used by US President Barack Obama to fly across the world.
"Air Sarko One" will have a wingspan two feet longer than the US plane.
The French President also wanted a full-sized bathtub on the plane but was told it could pose a problem, as under heavy turbulence water may overflow and cause short circuits.
But Sarkozy's extravagant purchase has come under criticism among austerity commentators.
British Prime Minister David Cameron decided to travel on commercial flights as part of the government's austerity drive.
Even Tony Blair's plans to purchase two private jets, at a cost of GBP 100 million, were scrapped by Gordon Brown soon after he came to power.
Sarkozy's government, however, said the new presidential plane was anything but an extravagance.
"There is nothing ostentatious, simply a desire to have equipment fitting for the world's fifth power," said Luc Chatel, the government spokesman.
First Published: Sunday, August 01, 2010, 15:18