A specifically modified Boeing 777 aircraft, which will be used to fly the prime minister, president and the vice president, landed in New Delhi on Thursday after its retrofitment in the United States for more than two years, PTI reported.
The country’s first-ever VVIP plane was scheduled to be delivered by aircraft manufacturer Boeing to Air India in July but its delivery was delayed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic. Another custom-made aircraft for the travel of VVIPs is likely to be delivered by October-end. Officials said the total cost of purchase and retrofitting the two planes has been estimated to be around Rs 8,400 crore.
Before this, the government borrowed Boeing 747s from Air India ahead of a VVIP visit, The Hindu reported. However, those jet do not have secure communication equipment, sensors to detect and jam hostile threats such as surface-to-air missiles. Two jets were flown to Dallas Forth Worth in Texas, Boeing’s headquarters, for modifications.
Air India One, which is the call sign of the aircraft, landed at the Delhi airport from Texas around 3 pm on Thursday. Two Indian Air Force pilots have been trained by Air India to operate the modified aircrafts.
The Narendra Modi government has paid Air India Rs 4,632 crore towards the cost of these planes, according to The Hindu. A government official also told the newspaper that the Ministry of Civil Aviation is in the process of moving a Cabinet note to transfer of the ownership of the two planes from Air India to the Indian Air Force as the national carrier is likely to be sold to a private player.
The VVIP planes are equipped with missile warning sensors and countermeasures dispensing defence system, part of Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures or LAIRCM. It also includes a VVIP suite, two conference rooms, a press briefing room, a patient transfer unit, self-protection suites, secure video telephony and sound proofing. The planes also have outstanding fuel efficiency and can fly for long distances without stopping for refuelling midway.