So How Did Kim Jong-un Fly To Singapore To Meet President Trump?

All the eyes of the world are on Singapore this week, ahead of the historic on-again, off-again meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, currently scheduled for Tuesday, June 12, at the Capella Resort on the Singaporean island of Sentosa.

Ben recently wrote about how North Korea’s limited aviation fleet might cause the leaders to meet in Mongolia, because Kim Jong-un’s version of Air Force One is an ancient, Russian-built, Ilyushin Il-62, which has a range of only a few hours flying time. This greatly limits the ‘neutral’ locations the leaders could meet, given Trump was unlikely to meet in China.

North Korea’s national airline, Air Koryo, is the only airline that still operates the Ilyushin Il-62.

Mongolia and Japan had seemed like logical solutions. Eventually, both leaders agreed on Singapore, which is almost 3,000 miles from North Korea.

Both leaders have now landed in Singapore.

President Trump naturally arrived in style on Air Force One, a Boeing 747-200 that is almost 30 years old, but will eventually be replaced by two new 747-8s.

Air Force One

So how did Kim Jong-un arrive, given his ‘Air Force One’ Ilyushin presumably fully laden, may not be able to fly the distance non-stop?

Well three aircraft took off separately from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on Sunday morning:

  • firstly, an Ilyushin transport plane carrying Mr. Kim’s armoured limousine
  • secondly, an Air China 747-4J6 which normally carries the Chinese president (on loan from the Chinese government – it is their version of Air Force One)
  • and lastly North Korea’s ‘Air Force One,’ the Soviet-era Ilyushin 62

Mr. Kim chose to fly on the Air China 747, and was photographed leaving the aircraft as it touched down at Changi airport around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, where he was greeted at the airport by Singapore’s foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan.

Mr. Kim arrives in Singapore (Source: Singapore Government)

The flight operated as CA61, and the aircraft has already returned to Beijing. Presumably it will return to Singapore later this week to collect Mr. Kim and return him to Pyongyang.

Interestingly, China is also considering upgrading their ‘Air Force One’ from an old 747 to a new 747-8. Air China is one of the few airlines that actually operates the Boeing 747-8 as a passenger aircraft — the model has otherwise been a failure.

As you might imagine, details of the Chinese 747 ‘Air Force One’ are fairly secret — here is an image I was able to find of the nose of the plane:

Air China 747 nose (Source: China Daily)

While here is the nose of their new 747-8 passenger planes, featuring their business class product, from Ben’s recent review:

I would hope the new 747-8 Chinese Air Force One features a much improved hard product from the current version!

Hotels

Singapore has no shortage of luxury hotels, and each leader has chosen a (different) five star hotel to stay in during their visit, rather than at a diplomatic, or private residence. President Trump is staying at the Shangri-La, which Ben reviewed here.

Shangri-La Singapore
Shangri-La Singapore

Mr. Kim is staying at the St. Regis, which Ben reviewed here. I wonder if he will collect SPG points for his stay?

St Regis Singapore
St Regis Singapore

Which leader got the better hotel?

Bottom line

You may have noticed I don’t write much about politics (especially US politics) on this site, and the travel and hotel plans for this event is about as deep as I’ll be getting into it.

It is very interesting to see the world converge on Singapore for this meeting — there are 2,500 journalists registered to cover the meeting. If you are staying at any Singapore hotels this week I imagine space-available upgrades will be very hard to come by!

Have any of our Singapore based readers noticed any differences to the city this week?

Comments

  1. @ Michael – the A330 flew a day earlier – I believe it was to carry an advance team, to ensure everything on the ground was ready for Mr Kims arrival yesterday.

  2. Interesting that they chose hotels near each other (both the Shangri-La and St Regis are in Tanglin, which is also where there are many embassies and where the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs is located). I’m surprised neither chose a more secluded Sentosa resort near the Capella, where the summit will be located. I imagine availability and security issues were key to the selection of hotel.

  3. I happen to be in Singapore today and walked around the Orchard road area to see what was going on around the St. Regis. There is a major security presence, vehicle checks inbound to the hotel, tons of police, and a fair number of journalists and curious people hanging out. My Grab driver was complaining about traffic issues yesterday when the Kim motorcade departing Changi VIP. My sense from him is that the locals find this whole thing a nuisance, but are also curious about it.

  4. What’s taking them so long to replace that old and decrepit 747-200? I thought Boeing had 747-8’s ready to deliver that we’re sitting around from Aerosvit Airlines going out of business? Let this administration take them off Boeing’s hands already (at a reduced price of course) and voila.

    Now liberals can cry that even Trump’s new 747-8 planes are “russian connected” and interferes with his order from Boeing to directly affect and help the Russian economy.

  5. Kim is flying back on Tuesday afternoon (i.e. tomorrow), so will be quick turn around for the 747.

  6. The st Regis Singapore belongs to chinese. So that choice made sense. I would have expected trump at the marina bay sands which belongs to his big benefactor Sheldon Adelson. Guess security was an issue for the on again off again on again meeting.

  7. There’s really no issue with the Il-62’s range, much less the modernized Il-62M that Air Koryo uses. FNJ-SIN is 2943 miles, whereas a typical range for Il-62 is 6200 miles.
    The type routinely flew trans-Atlantic from eastern Europe, so there’s really no issue here.

  8. The Shang is a bit more secluded, whereas the StR is right on the street. Just be thankful you’re not staying in either, as the security issues for guests would be a PITA .

  9. @ CS – yes I thought the MBS would be a logical place for Trump to stay as well. I imagine it is too difficult for the Secret Service to secure adequately as it is a major tourist attraction with tens of thousands of tourists flooding in and out every day.

  10. Some minor corrections.
    B-2447 usually carried other Chinese high officials, while the president was flown mostly by another 747-400 the “Air Force One” B-2472.
    And B-2472 has actually already been replaced by the 747-8 B-2479, while B-2472 has been doing B-2447’s job.
    So Kim got a third string airplane, nevertheless, it’s still a thousand times better than his own

  11. I actually booked my in-laws a holiday in SIN, and they are staying in Santosa right now. A bit of a history for them!

  12. You have very good stories. I was sceptical at first, but you write interesting stuff – the JAL travel pass being an example of something that saved two of us $600 for October. And this is very interesting where other media doesn’t cover it. Thanks for taking the time to do this outside of your full-time job.

  13. Agree with the commenters above, IL-62 can fly as far as 10000 km. Aeroflot used to utilize it for flights between Moscow and Luanda, for example.
    So a) I don’t see any serious issues with the plane’s range, because it’s a long-haul plane by design, plus refueling in, say, Ulaanbataar is always an option, and b) yes, Rada Airlines does indeed utilize IL-62.

  14. @Ivan Maybe a well-maintenanced IL-62 can go that far. Is Kim’s plane kept in order?

    I know one issue is who would pay for his hotel in Singapore, given he’s lacking in hard currency and the US is barred from doing any business or giving money to NK. (I believe Singapore will end up footing the bill.) So if he can’t afford a hotel room, maybe they’d have trouble paying to spare parts for the IL-62 and are cutting corners on maintenance.

  15. Traditionally the US president stays at US-owned hotels in the USA and abroad – or if that’s not possible, a US managed property. Of course NOTHING is traditional with Trump.

  16. @ Ivan – I wonder why Mr Kim didn’t take his own plane then, given that is its main purpose? You wouldn’t expect a US President to borrow an Air Canada plane for an important event!

  17. I recall Air Koryo used to have nonstop FNJ-KWI and FNJ-KUL flights. Not sure which aircraft they used for them but Air Koryo certainly had plans that are capable of flying to SIN.

  18. Long ago I flew a IL-62 from jfk to Prague. Had to stop in Montreal on the way back for fueling.

    I saw a IL-62 Cubana a year ago in Havana. Not sure if it still operates.

  19. More people have been killed from conventional weapons and road accidents than from nuclear weapons. Banning them is not the answer. Mental health issues is the key.

    Let isis suicide bombers get nuclear weapons. We need to provide them with mental health blah blah blah…

    Proud member of national missile association. The best way to stop bad guys with nuclear weapons is to let everyone have them.

  20. I would assume that Adelson is happy that Trump did NOT stay at MBS. After all gambling revenues from MBS are significant and the restriction on gambling licenses will potentially go away on a specific date. Trumps entourage would likely kill gambling revenues for the length of his stay if they stayed at MBS

  21. Is Trump not staying at the Island Shangri La hotel also located on the Sentosa Island and only a few minutes away from the summit site – the Capella Hotel? I’d imagine security details will be much more easier for everybody if he stays there instead of the downtown Shangrila Singapore hotel

  22. So Kim’s IL-62 did come along but he was not on it? Did it make it? 🙂 I presume it was to A) test it B) use it as decoy and/or C) carry more of his peeps equipment or food?
    Maybe he will fly it back? There are stories that he was quite worried of being in the air for so long within easy interception of US air assets. Being on an Air China marked aircraft certainly would have helped ease his worries a bit.

  23. @Debit – wow, you’re comment is actually valid and makes sense today! Good on you for giving the trolling a break.

  24. @James why am I reading CNN? Go home rookie. Take the rest of the day off your articles are garbage today.

  25. Almost every exit along the PIE expressway had a traffic police officer standing there to show police presence. Parts of Orchard road has also been gazetted as special event area and plenty of warnings on delay of traffic. The Singapore government is also footing the bill incurred by the North Koreans as part of our diplomatic goodwill. I’m Singaporean so its certainly a bit of history in the making as all eyes are on our tiny red dot country on the world map.

  26. I’d prefer to see the US President stay at the Embassy. I know support staff would overwhelm the embassies but shoot…just bunk together with existing staff and have non-essential staff staying somewhere close by. I’d really love to see embassy use and I’m sure embassy staff would love to shake the President’s hand!

  27. The image you had is for commercial version. They one took Kim, though looks no different than a normal commercial air china plane, is completely redesigned as a private jet just like air force one. The Chinese government use air china plane as ‘air force one’ because air china is state owned, so technically any air china plane is their property anyway.

  28. I read

    1. day before, an Air China A330 flew an advance team from FNJ to SIN
    2. the IL-62 flew mostly over China, not the ocean, carried Supreme Leader’s sister (maybe to insure a dynasty survives if there’s a plane crash of one of the planes). The IL-62 refueled in some Chinese city that starts with L.
    3. the Air China flew mostly inland and not over the ocean, avoiding as many foreign countries as possible.
    4. Air Force One did not stop in Alaska. Instead, it stopped in the Greek island of Crete, Souba Bay air base. A USAF 757 stopped overnight at Ramstein AB, Germany

  29. @james
    I too very much appreciate the Japan pass article. I am planning a 2 week trip for next March/April and the flight pass is a great find…..thanks.

  30. now in Crete for some sunshine, and wondered why the heck did I spot a B747 far far away near the horizon, never noticed it was Air Force One! (the base was almost the same place as CHQ)

  31. It looks like comments for a few articles were commingled above.

    Regarding the Singapore Summit:

    (1) I didn’t verify, but I am nearly certain that the permanent Air Force Ones were upgraded more than 30 years ago.

    (2) American chain hotels as a general rule never award miles/points to people who pay with a government credit card or who are known to work with governments. I was a guest of the Kazakhstan Government at the Four Seasons in Almaty and I was denied any kind of credit because they paid for my suite for six nights.

  32. James – I have been following this blog for years and hope you know what a breath of fresh air your posts are. I love your writing style and choice of topics. Keep up the great job and post more. Your posts are always my favorite to read.

  33. @Daniel while it is true that any plane the president flies on is Air Force One (just like any helicopter is Marine One when POTUS on it), there are two particular planes that are called Air Force One. These planes live at joint base Andrews. And, to that point, @James, the two 747-8s will replace two existing planes. It’s a one for one replacement, not a two for one replacement. And, for the record, while you won’t find a ton of pictures of Air Force One on line either, it’s highly customized.

  34. Imagine how many of the “Legend in their own minds” are pissed because they didn’t get an upgrade from the airline or hotel.

  35. On POTUS’ choice of hotel – the Marina Bay Sands is a wide open target that can be hit from the air, sea, and can be accessed from about 3 different roads, not to mention the huge volume of foot traffic in the area (i.e. tens of thousands of people on a daily basis). In contrast, the Shangri-La is accessed via a single road that can easily be secured .

    On that note, the Shangri-La on Sentosa island is more of a 4.5 star beach resort. Not a property befitting a head of state.

    Believe Lucky has also mentioned before (and this is true for the most part) that there aren’t actually any genuine luxury hotels in Singapore, just a lot of good 5-star hotels.

  36. As mentioned already, there are several errors in this article.

    The Chinese leadership has already moved to 747-8 for VIP transport, and the current president Xi Jinping does not use the plane that carried Kim.

    Also, Japan would never have been a logical choice for the summit, given the complicated relationship Japan has with pretty much every Asian state. Japan is clearly not a neutral country.

  37. The 748 is not a failure. The cargo version has sold very well.

    Technology from the 748 (and 787) will go into the next generation of aircraft.

  38. Following from @Louis’ comment regarding how Trump arrived, obviously on AF1 but I doubt it could have made it nonstop from the G7 in Quebec and I also doubt they would refuel mid flight. Fly the secondary aircraft to and American Airbase in Japan slightly earlier and have it refueled?

    Trump hops of one and immediately takes of on the other for the remaining 6 or so hours?

  39. @James actually, they remove the seats and then remodel it on the B747-400 when the president is using it, and then once he is done, it will be fitted back to the passenger version. So like those seats won’t actually feature as they will be removed and fitted with conference rooms, dinning rooms e.t.c.

  40. I recall that Air Force One refueled on the Greek island of Crete when traveling between Canada and Singapore.

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