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Air India’s Boeing 777 flies out for retrofit as VVIP plane

Photo for representational purpose   | Photo Credit: V. Sudershan

India is 18 months away from getting its first ever exclusive pair of VVIP planes as Air India’s brand new Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft left for the US on Friday morning to be overhauled for use by the President, Vice President and Prime Minister of the country.

The plane will be modified to include VIP enclosures, a press conference room, on-board Wi-Fi, and a patient transport unit for medical emergencies, among other requirements. It will also have a special protection suite or an anti-missile system.

“The plane has left for Boeing’s facility at Forth Worth, Dallas. Air India has entered into an agreement with Boeing to carry out retrofitment, which will be completed in 18 months,” said an official of the airline.

Unlike the Boeing 747-400, which were borrowed from Air India whenever a VVIP had to make a foreign trip, a Boeing 777-300 ER can fly for nearly 20 hours non-stop, or as far as the US, and will not have to halt midway for refuelling.

In February and March, Air India added three Boeing 777-300 ERs to its fleet, completing an order of 68 planes placed in 2006. Two of these three planes have been set aside for VVIPs.

The second Boeing 777 aircraft will leave the country on June 30.

The two planes will return to the country by the end of 2019, and will be deployed for VVIP flights from 2020 onwards, the official added.

The two planes will replace the existing Boeing 747-400s, which are borrowed from Air India as and when a VVIP is scheduled to visit a foreign country, and have to be modified each time to include facilities like a conference room. These planes are nearly 25 years old and airline officials feel that, in the coming years, it would be difficult to carry out maintenance work and find spare parts for them.

During the Budget announcement this year, the government allocated ₹ 4,469.50 crore towards the cost of the retrofitment, as well as spare parts, for the two planes.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2020 11:10:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/air-indias-boeing-777-flies-out-for-retrofit-as-vvip-plane/article24060834.ece

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