For the first time, two Boeing 777-300 ERs are being customized for the Indian president, vice-president and prime minister, and will be ready for use by 2020, officials said.
The aircraft will be modified to have VIP enclosures, a conference hall, a medical emergency unit, anti-missile shield and wifi.
The government has set aside Rs. 4,469.5cr for purchasing the planes from Air India.
AircraftBoeing 747 vs 777
Unlike the Boeing 747 of the 1960-70s, which are currently borrowed from Air India for foreign visits of VVIPs, the Boeing 777 can fly non-stop to the US without refueling halts.
The 777, which entered service in 1995, is cheaper to operate than the latest 747.
747s are still used, but mostly as freighters. The 777s have won over the passenger market.
In February-March, Air India inducted three Boeing 777s; two will be used for VVIP movement.
The earmarked budget will cover most necessities, including their retro-fitment.
Starting June, they will spend 18 months in US for overhauling. IAF is reportedly in talks with US for anti-missile protection for these planes.
Air India will prepare a 44-pilot team for VVIP operations, apart from other dedicated crew.
ImpactHow will it impact Air India’s general operations?
Till now, Air India had to reassign as well as re-configure aircraft from its fleet for VVIP movement as and when needed.
Having exclusive aircraft for the president, vice-president and prime minister will now mean no more burden on Air India’s daily operations.
However, the airline’s ongoing privatization might impact its deployment of crew for VVIPs. The government is yet to take a decision.