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Arrival of custom-made B777 plane for VVIP travel delayed due to technical reasons

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The B777 aircraft. A Boeing photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): The arrival of the VVIP aircraft from the US, which will be used to fly the Indian President, Vice President and the Prime Minister, has been delayed due to technical reasons, senior Air India officials said on Tuesday.

The plane was scheduled to arrive in India during the first half of this week, the officials noted.

Senior officials of the national carrier reached the US earlier this month to receive the plane from aircraft manufacturer Boeing, the officials said.

Another custom-made B777 plane for the travel of VVIPs is likely to be received from Boeing in September, they noted.

It was expected that the delivery of these two planes, which are earmarked for VVIP travel only, would be done by July. However, due to COVID-19, their delivery has been delayed by a few weeks.

During the travel of the VVIPs, the two B777 aircraft will be operated by pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and not of Air India, an official said.

Currently, the President, Vice President and the Prime Minister, fly on Air India's B747 planes, which have the call sign ''Air India One''.

Air India pilots fly these B747 aircraft for the dignitaries and the Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL) maintains them.

When these B747 aircraft are not flying the dignitaries, they are used by the Indian national carrier for commercial operations.

The new planes will be used for travel of the dignitaries only. These two aircraft were part of Air India's commercial fleet for a few months in 2018 before they were sent back to Boeing for retrofitting them for VVIP travel.

The B777 planes will have state-of-the-art missile defence systems called Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) and Self-Protection Suites (SPS).

In February, the US agreed to sell the two defence systems to India at a cost of US$ 190 million.

The Centre has already initiated the process of divestment of its stake in Air India, which has a debt of over Rs 60,000 crore. However, the process has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tags:

B777  Boeing  US  India  VVIP  Travel  IAF  Pilot  Missile Defence System  
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