A Falcon for an Envoy

There was a lot of shuttling up and down the United Kingdom in the Summer of 2022 as the country adjusted to the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of King Charles III. As TV images showed the Royal Family and sundry officials at various airfields, I noticed a strange anonymous-looking white corporate jet just out of shot most of the time. I confess, I’m not much good in spotting small corporate jets so I had no idea what it was. However it seemed to be something official, and the plain white wrapper, lack of national insignia and what was probably a UK civil aviation registration made me wonder.

Fast forward to today (please excuse the long absence from blogging, I’m temporarily teaching a lot more than usual – it’ll all be over by Christmas 2022) and my non-specific wonder achieved a focus.

Looking a lot more colorful than the plain white British examples, here is HB-JTA, a Dassault Falcon 900LX of Air Sarina AG – Photo by flybyeigenheer, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a Dassault Falcon 900 LX, the RAF has bought two of them and they’re going to be called the Envoy IV (or even Envoy IV CC.Mk.1) in British military circles. Their role is described as Command Support Air Transport (CSAT) – or basically flying the Royal Family, and the upper echelons of the UK government and military around the world as needed. The Envoy IV aircraft will replace (or have replaced) two Bae 146 which were taken out of service in March 2022.

The new aircraft will be based at RAF Northolt and operated by 32 (The Royal) Squadron RAF. In keeping with the times, there is some kind of public / private partnership going on under which the aircraft are jointly operated with a civilian contractor Centreline AV Ltd. who are based in Bristol (I love the term “mixed crew” for all the wrong reasons) although the RAF will assume full operational control in 2024.

Why Envoy IV? The powers that be are apparently paying homage to the Airspeed AS.6 Envoy (which morphed into the AS.10 Oxford) Marks I-III of beloved memory. The Airspeed products served the RAF faithfully for many years and Envoy III G-AEXX was used by the King’s Flight. The King’s Flight Envoy replaced a de Havilland Dragon Rapide, and was itself replaced by a Lockheed Hudson when an armed aircraft became more desirable at the start of the Second World War.

The Airspeed ‘ Envoy’ of the King’s Flight. Having totally failed to find a photographic image of the aircraft itself I settled for a contemporary cigarette card. George Arents Collection, The New York Public Library. “The Airspeed ‘ Envoy’ of the King’s Flight.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed November 11, 2022. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-941d-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99