For over past 25 years, Boeing 747s of Air India have flown dignitaries across the world as AI One. Now the two B777s will replace the ageing jumbos. Four pilots of Air India flew the B777 non-stop from Forth Worth, Texas, to Delhi, covering a distance of about 13,000 km in just over 15 hours. It touched down at IGI Airport at 3.11 pm. AI has deployed 10 to 15 of its most experienced B777 pilots for operating the two VVIP aircraft that cut about Rs 8,500 crore.
“There will be a hybrid model for some time with AI crew operating the planes before Indian Air Force personnel being trained on the new plane are ready to take over,” said sources.
While it is not yet certain what the new VVIP chariot will be called, sources indicate it may be termed “India One”. “In last over 25 years, AI jumbo jets were knows as AI One while operating the VVIP flights. Now IAF will be doing the same with the new B777s. Calling them Air Force One could lead to confusion and India One is a likely name,” said sources.
AI Engineering will be maintaining the two planes. Two hangars will be built at Palam technical side for the new aircraft.
India One will be the most modern and sophisticated VVIP aircraft in the world. Two old jumbo jets currently operate as the Air India One. Boeing is working on the replacements for these two planes which are likely to be ready soon.
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The two Boeing 777-300 extended range (ER) aircraft for Indian VVIPs are retrofitted with advanced security systems to jam and defeat hostile incoming missiles and encrypted communication facilities. The two widebody aircraft, originally delivered to AI in January 2018, are equipped with “large aircraft infrared countermeasures (LAIRCM) self-protection suites (SPS) in the US.
These security systems alone have cost Rs 1,365 crore in the FMS (foreign military sales) deal inked with the US government. The LAIRCM-SPS protects large aircraft from shoulder-fired and intermediate range missiles. It increases crew-warning time, decreases false alarm rates and automatically counters hostile missiles.
The defence system includes “radar warning receivers”, which basically sound an alert if a hostile radar “paints” the aircraft before letting loose missiles, and “missile-approach warning systems”. Advanced electronic counter-measures on board the aircraft will be able to jam enemy radars, along with defence systems geared to shoot metal chaff or flares to throw off-track radar-guided or heat-seeking missiles.
Unlike the jumbos that need a stopover in Europe while flying between India and the Americas, the new aircraft can fly non-stop for over 17 hours — basically they can fy from Delhi non-stop to almost any place on earth. They have been customised to have big cabins with bedrooms for the VVIP passengers, apart from a mini hospital, conference room and seats for accompanying officials.