Politics

Prime minister's plane breaks down in Jamaica during family holiday

The Canadian Armed Forces was forced to send a second plane to Jamaica this week after the military plane that brought Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the Caribbean island for a family vacation became "unserviceable," CBC News has learned.

Military forced to send a second plane with mechanics to repair it

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves as he steps off a plane, Wednesday, June 14, 2023 at CFB Bagotville in Saguenay, Que. Trudeau came to meet with soldiers who worked battling wildfires.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves as he steps off a plane on June 14, 2023 at CFB Bagotville in Saguenay, Que. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

The Canadian Armed Forces was forced to send a second plane to Jamaica this week after the military aircraft that brought Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the Caribbean island for a family vacation became "unserviceable," CBC News has learned.

Andrée-Anne Poulin, spokesperson for the Department of National Defence (DND), confirmed that two Royal Canadian Air Force CC-144 Challengers travelled to Jamaica.

"The first aircraft that transported the Prime Minister's party became unserviceable after arrival," she wrote in an e-mailed response. "The second aircraft brought a maintenance team to repair the first aircraft, and remained in the area as a back-up for the Prime Minister's departure, if necessary."

Trudeau had been scheduled to return to Canada on Jan. 4. Poulin said a maintenance issue was discovered on Jan. 2 during an inspection of the aircraft and the maintenance team was dispatched on Jan. 3 and "returned the aircraft to serviceability."

Trudeau's plane returned to Canada on Jan. 4.

The plane that brought Trudeau to Jamaica and the one that brought the maintenance crew to Jamaica are two of the military's newer Challenger aircraft, acquired in 2020.

This is the second time in less than four months that a plane transporting Trudeau has been unable to fly because of mechanical problems.

In September, Trudeau's departure from India after a G20 summit meeting was delayed for two days after pre-flight checks revealed a part on the CC-150 Polaris was faulty and needed to be replaced.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's plane is seen on the tarmac after being grounded due to a technical issue following the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's plane is seen on the tarmac after being grounded due to a technical issue following the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Trudeau, who is required to travel on military planes for security reasons, flew to Montego Bay, Jamaica on Dec. 26 for a vacation with his family.

While his office initially said that he would be paying for his family's accommodations, it later stated that Trudeau and family were staying in Jamaica "at no cost at a location owned by family friends."

The Prime Minister's Office declined to comment on the problems with the plane Friday, referring questions to DND.

During Trudeau's previous holidays, the aircraft transporting the prime minister and his family flew to their destination and remained nearby before transporting them back to Canada.

WATCH: Technical problem strands Canadian G20 delegation in India

Airplane problem strands Canadian G20 delegation in India

10 months ago
Duration 1:25
Canada's G20 delegation, including the prime minister, is still stuck in New Delhi due to a problem with the aging government Airbus that was supposed to bring them home. A replacement aircraft and parts have been dispatched to bring them back to Canada.

On Wednesday, a second Challenger aircraft was spotted by flight trackers heading to Jamaica. On Thursday afternoon, flight tracking sites showed both planes flying back to Ottawa, with the second Challenger following not far behind the PM's plane.

Trudeau's vacations out of the country have been controversial at times. A trip to visit the Aga Khan on a private island in 2016 resulted in a finding by former ethics commissioner Mary Dawson that he had violated ethics rules that prohibit ministers from accepting gifts or other advantages.

While Trudeau argued that the trip didn't contravene the rules because the Aga Khan was a family friend, Dawson concluded that Trudeau and the Aga Khan had little contact for decades before he became Liberal Party leader.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Thompson

Senior reporter

Award-winning reporter Elizabeth Thompson covers Parliament Hill. A veteran of the Montreal Gazette, Sun Media and iPolitics, she currently works with the CBC's Ottawa bureau, specializing in investigative reporting and data journalism. She can be reached at: elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca.