During the travel of the VVIPs, the two B777 aircraft will be operated by pilots of the Indian Air Force and not of Air India.
Senior officials of Air India have gone to the US to receive from Boeing a custom-made B777 aircraft that will be used to fly Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top Indian dignitaries, senior officials said on Friday. "Some senior officials of the central government are also part of the team that has gone to the US to receive the plane from Boeing," said an official of the national carrier.
Another custom-made B777 plane is likely to be received from Boeing in September, the official added. It was expected that the delivery of these two planes, which are earmarked for VVIP travel only, would be done by July. However, due to Covid-19, their delivery has been delayed by a few weeks.
During the travel of the VVIPs, the two B777 aircraft will be operated by pilots of the Indian Air Force and not of Air India, said another official. Currently, the prime minister, the president and the vice president fly on Air India's B747 planes, which have the call sign ''Air India One''. Air India pilots fly these B747 aircraft for the dignitaries and the Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL) maintains them.
When these B747 aircraft are not flying the dignitaries, they are used by the Indian national carrier for commercial operations. The new planes will be used for travel of the dignitaries only. These two aircraft were part of Air India's commercial fleet for a few months in 2018 before they were sent back to Boeing for retrofitting them for VVIP travel.
The B777 planes will have state-of-the-art missile defence systems called Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) and Self-Protection Suites (SPS). In February, the US agreed to sell the two defence systems to India at a cost of $190 million. The Centre has already initiated the process of divestment of its stake in Air India, which has a debt of over Rs 60,000 crore. However, the process has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Source: Business Standard