After a four-year delay and subsequent acrimony, the first of Air India’s advanced Boeing 787 Dreamliner touched down at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here, adding a new chapter to the struggling national carrier’s history.
The plane, painted in the red and yellow colours of the airline, landed at the main runway at 5 p.m. and was given the water cannon salute as it taxied to the bay.
Air India chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan and senior Civil Aviation Ministry and airline officials were present to receive the state-of-the-art aircraft.
Officials said the long haul aircraft took around 15 hours of flying time from the Boeing’s Charleston facility in South Carolina in the U.S. to Delhi plus a 90-minute stopover at Frankfurt for re-fuelling.
Air India, which ordered 27 Dreamliners six years ago, will get two more in the next few weeks. A total of eight will arrive by March 2013.
The aircraft is expected to become the mainstay of AI’s global operations and is being touted as key to its turnaround plan. For AI, the plane has been configured to have 256 seats — 18 full-flat business class seats and 238 in economy. Its sophisticated features include mood lighting inside the cabin and large LCD display screens for in-flight entertainment.
For the next two months, AI will use the B-787s on select sectors such as Delhi-Dubai, Delhi-Kolkata, Delhi-Bangalore and Delhi-Amritsar for the crew to practise more landings and take-offs. So far, 65 pilots have been trained to fly it.
It has four variants, one with the longest range: capable of flying over 15,000 km non-stop. By December, AI will introduce these aircraft on new long-haul sectors such as Melbourne and Sydney, apart from older ones like Japan, the Middle East and several European destinations.
Less fuel consumption
Made of carbon composite material, it is light-weight and considered less of a fuel guzzler.
Boeing claims the plane consumes 20 per cent less fuel compared to similar-sized B-767s, thereby lowering flying costs.
The first batch was supposed to be delivered in September 2008 but design and production issues caused the delay.
The airlines which are already operating this aircraft are Japan’s All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Ethiopian Airways and Lan Airlines of Chile.