The government is likely to replace the age-old Boeing 747s used for VVIP travel with three Boeing 777s, part of the 111-aircraft order placed by Air India in 2006. The airline hasn’t taken delivery of these three aircraft so far.
This is a shift from the government’s earlier plan to order aircraft for VVIP travel and phase out Air India’s 747s currently being used for the travel of the President, Vice-President and the Prime Minister.
The matter will be discussed in a meeting of Committee of Secretaries (CoS), headed by the Cabinet secretary, next month.
“The government had issues with a twin engine plane and wanted a four-engine plan for VVIP travel. The issue has now been sorted out and they have agreed for a two-engine plane to replace the Boeing 747s. Boeing 777s fit the bill and has been agreed upon and a decision is likely to come in the CoS meeting next month,” said a civil aviation ministry official.
Compared to Boeing 747s, Boeing 777s are smaller in size and the aircraft for VVIP travel will have a capacity of around 200 passengers plus a cabin for the traveling dignitary. They will be much more economical than the old Boeing 747s.
“Air India has meet all departments concerned on the design these aircraft will have. Once the permission comes, Boeing will be asked to design these 777s accordingly and these can be pressed into service,” said the official.
All VVIP flights are run on no profit no loss basis and the government pays Air India for these flights. In 2011, the paid Rs 532 crore to Air India for operating VVIP flights.
Apart from the long-haul planes, the Indian Air Force also owns four 14-seater Embraer 135 and three customised Boeing Business Jets exclusively deployed for VVIP travel.