Another custom-made B777 plane for VVIP travel is likely to be received from Boeing at a later date.
Here are some key points about the aircraft:
* The two Boeing 777 aircraft were part of Air India‘s commercial fleet for a few months after being delivered in January 2018. Later, they were sent back to Boeing for retrofitting them for VVIP travel.
* The aircraft were ordered by Air India in 2005 as part of the fifteen B777-300 extended range (ER) aircraft.
* Equipped with state-of-the-art missile defence systems called large aircraft countermeasures (LAIRCM) and self-protection suites (SPS), the aircraft will be operated by pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
* The advanced security systems will enable them to jam and defeat hostile incoming missiles. The aircraft are also encrypted with communication facilities.
* Unlike jumbos that need a stopover, these aircraft can fly non-stop 17 hours from India to almost any place on the Earth.
* Facilities include spacious cabins with bedrooms, a mini hospital, a conference room and seats for officials accompanying the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister .
* Both the aircraft will be under the ownership of government — the aircraft used till now for VVIP travel belonged to AI, which is also owned by the government.
* The new B777s will replace Air India’s B747 aircraft which were used to fly dignitaries for the past 25 years and were flown by Air India pilots.
* Air India Engineering will manage the maintenance work of the two planes. Two hangars will be built at Palam technical side for them.
* The total cost of the aircraft, including the modifications, was set at Rs 4,469.50 crore — money that came from the National Small Savings Fund — according to the 2018-19 budget. However, a PTI report quoting officials, said the new cost came to Rs 8,400 crore.
* Air India B777 flew into the country straight from Boeing Defence base in Texas and will likely operate its first VVIP flight next month.
* The plane was scheduled to be delivered by Boeing to Air India in July but delivery was delayed twice — once in July for weeks due to Covid-19 pandemic and then again in August due to technical reasons.
(With agency inputs)