Air India is set to take the delivery of the first of the two B777 aircraft, which will be used to fly the VVIPs, on January 24. A team of pilots along with some senior ministry officials will be flying to the Seattle facility of plane maker Boeing via San Francisco on January 20 for this purpose, an airline source close to the development told PTI. The induction of the two Boeing 777-300ERs will replace the over 25-year-old jumbo jets, B747-400s – which are currently used to ferry president, vice president and prime minister.
The new aircraft, however, will be put to use only around July-August as the planes will immediately be sent back to the US for retrofit after the completion of registration formalities, the source said. The retrofitting is expected to cost the nation around over Rs 1,100 crore. “A team comprising four pilots — two senior commanders and two first officers — along with some senior ministry officials will leave for San Francisco on January 20 from where they will fly to Seattle,” the source said. They will fly back on 24 after taking the delivery and the new aircraft will arrive here on the eve of the Republic Day, the source said.
In 2006, Air India had placed orders with Boeing for 68 aircraft — 27 Dreamliners, 15 B777-300 ERs, eight B777-200 LRs and 18 B737-800s. Of these, the state-run carrier has already taken the delivery of 65 planes, including 12 B777-300ERs. Delivery of the remaining three B777-300 ERs is scheduled for next month, with two of them to be handed over to the disinvestment-bound carrier this month itself. “These planes, however, will go back to the US for modification, which will take at least six months to complete,” the source said.
Air India has tied up with the UAE-based First Abu Dhabi Bank as well as Standard Chartered Bank and Mashreq Bank for short-term loans to finance these planes. Last month, the airline had also floated tenders for securing loans worth over Rs 1,100 crore for their modification.