The air force’s budget for VIP flights for the current financial year has already been used up, but it will still have to fork out R25 million to rent a plane for President Jacob Zuma’s trip to China and New York this week.This is despite the fact that the presidential jet, Inkwazi, which has a serviceability record of 99.8%, remains unused.City Press’ sister newspaper, Rapport, has previously reported that Zuma and his staff have refused to fly with Inkwazi over supposed safety concerns about the jet. The rental plane will take Zuma to the annual Brics conference – comprising the five member states of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – which takes place in China, and then to New York in the US.It is exactly the same size as Inkwazi.Defence department sources told Rapport the estimated budget for the China flight was R12.8 million. Estimates are similar for the New York flight, despite the fact that the air force has almost no money left for VIP flights.In the meantime, a feasibility study is being done by the air force to determine if Denel should be given a bigger slice of the work to be done on VIP jets. A senior officer in the air force told Rapport that there was dissatisfaction with the quality of the maintenance work being done on most of the VIP fleet, as well as on some of the other aircraft types. Only a few aircraft maintenance companies are currently involved with this work because certain competency licences are required for certain aircraft, and those without them cannot work on the aircraft. Denel is already responsible for the maintenance of the air force’s helicopters and cargo plane fleet, but does not currently have the competency licences to work on more advanced types of aircraft. While the feasibility study is under way, maintenance contracts for the various aircraft types are expiring one after the other, which could see the whole VIP fleet grounded by September, if there are no interventions. Inkwazi’s contract has already expired and maintenance to the aircraft is done monthly, on a cash basis. The presidential jet is also scheduled for major maintenance at Basel in Switzerland in November, but this has not been discussed or paid for. Without this maintenance, Inkwazi will no longer be allowed to fly. The maintenance contracts for three Falcon jets also expire at the end of September. One of these aircraft, the Falcon 900, is used mainly for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s flights, while one of the Falcon 50s is used for domestic flights.The other Falcon 50 is grounded because there is no budget to buy a new engine for it.The defence department declined to comment, despite repeated requests for it to do so.