NEW DELHI: India is likely get its new long-haul VVIP aircraft for use of the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister by the second half of 2018 — the final year of Narendra Modi’s first term as PM.
Air India is to get a brand new Boeing 777-300 extended range (ER) each month next January, February and March.
The government has decided that two of these three planes will be used as the next VVIP planes, replacing the over 25-year-old jumbo jets India’s top dignitaries currently fly for long journeys.
Since the two planes will be retrofitted by Boeing with the most modern security and communication systems — on a par with US President’s Air Force One — they may be ready only late next year.
There is a practice for VVIP flights that an aircraft is kept on standby in case AI One develops a snag.
The US President, in fact, flies with two identical Air Force Ones with only his security team knowing on which plane the president is present.
“The Boeing 747s used currently for long flights by the top VVIPs may be old but they are perfectly safe and comfortable to use. So there was no hurry to replace them. The only thing the jumbos can’t do is fly nonstop to North America. They need to do so with a stopover in Europe and being old, are not exactly fuel-savers. The new and fuel efficient B 777-300 ER will be able to fly nonstop on trans-Atlantic/Pacific routes to North America,” said a source.
AI has five B747s in its fleets that are maintained mainly for such VVIP flights. The airline flies them on nearby international and some domestic routes. The airline will phase its trusted old planes once the replacement comes.