Government won’t spend more on VVIP flights; would use Boeing 777s to replace Air Force One Planes


The Modi government has taken another novel step to avoid spending millions on upgrading VVIP facilities. It has decided to take two Boeing 777s already flying with Air India instead of replacing the 24-year-old fleet of jumbo jets used for distant overseas tours of Presidents and Prime Ministers by brand new planes.


"Two of the youngest B-777 300 extended range (ER) aircraft from this fleet will be transferred to the defence ministry by October 1. These two planes joined our fleet in 2010 and have been flying with us almost five years. The defence authorities along with Boeing will retrofit these planes as India's very own Air Force One," said a senior official.

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Defence authorities will give the written down value of these planes, estimated to be $100-105 million each, to AI, which will in turn use the money to pay off the aircraft loan of these two aircraft.

As part of its mega 111-aircraft order placed in 2007-end, AI had ordered 23 B-777s. Three of the B-777 300 ERs are yet to be delivered by Boeing but using them for VVIP use would have cost a lot more.

"We are now going to convert the order for these three wide-body planes into the order for 10 to 11 narrow-body Boeing 737 Max for AI Express which currently has 17 aircraft. The low cost carrier is leasing eight B-737s and its fleet will rise to 25. The 10-11 replacement B-737 Max ordered in place of three B-777s will take its fleet up to 35, which is considered the right size for that airline," said the official. The decision comes though the government had the option to go in for brand new B-777s for VVIP use.

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"The old Boeing 747s being used today for long international flights by the PM are perfectly safe to fly but due to their advanced age, they are fuel guzzlers. Also, they can't fly nonstop to distant places like the Americas. During the 10-year-long Manmohan Singh's prime ministerial period, the one-stop flight to distant destinations worked well as the then PM was more comfortable with a break on long journeys. PM Modi, on the other hand, is extremely energetic and can do long journeys nonstop without any fatigue on the B-777s," said a highly placed source.
(image credits: planespotters.net)