Air India One

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One of Air India Boeing 747 aircraft, used during the Indian President's trip to Madrid as Air India One.

Air India One (also referred to as AI-1[1] or AIC001) is the call sign of any Air India aircraft carrying the Prime Minister of India, President of India or the Vice President of India. Air India is the national airline of India.[2] The aircraft are operated as VIP flights by the Indian Air Force (IAF).[3] The IAF's Air Headquarters Communications Squadron, based at Indira Gandhi International Airport (formerly Palam Air Force Base) in New Delhi, is in charge of operating these aircraft.[4]

Current Fleet[edit]

Apart from the Boeing 747-400 owned by Air India and used on international state visits, the IAF currently owns four 14 seater Embraer 135, four 20 seater Embraer 145 and three customized 46 seater Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) that have a VIP cabin and are used for VIP movement. Of these the Boeing 747s are used by either the Prime Minister,President or Vice President when on official overseas visits.[4][5]

Each Embraer 135 is equipped with missile-deflecting systems, modern flight management system including global positioning system, as well as category II instrument landing system. These aircraft cost the IAF INR 1.40 billion each.[5] The Three BBJs, named Rajdoot, Rajhans and Rajkamal cost the IAF INR 9.34 billion each (INR 7.34 billion for the actual aircraft plus an additional INR 2 billion for Self Protection Suites).[3][4] Self-protection suites include radar warning receivers,it also has highly trained commandos to protect the president/vice/prime minister, missile-approach warning and counter-measure systems. The aircraft have the capability to shoot chaff and flares to deviate radar-guided and heat-seeking missiles off their track along with other security tools.The other security instruments are undisclosed by the Indian Air Force.

The onboard electronics include about 238 miles of wiring (twice the amount you'd find in a normal 747). Heavy shielding is tough enough to protect the wiring and crucial electronics from the electromagnetic pulse associated with a nuclear blast.

The President is designated VIP 1, The Vice President VIP 2 and The Prime Minister VIP 3. The BBJ have a four class configuration. For the President/Prime Minister, there is a separate enclosure in the aircraft which includes an office and a bedroom. Everyone aboard Air India One is required to wear a color-coded identity card. Members of the official delegation (Joint Secretary level and above) are tagged in purple and sit in First Class while accompanying officials (junior officers) are given pink tags and sit in Business Class on the upper deck. Journalists and others from the media sit in the Executive Class and sport yellow tags. Support staff join the security team in a small economy class section at the back of the aircraft and are tagged in red. These aircraft are expected to be replaced as they have become less cost-effective to operate.The Indian Air Force is looking forward to replace the present Boeing 747-400 with the Boeing 777-300ER. The committee is soon to take the call. The planes will be maintained by the Indian Air Force, [1]

Replacements[edit]

The government has chosen the ultra long-haul Boeing 777 -300 (extended range) aircraft to replace the ageing B747s that serve as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Air India One fleet.

AI has a fleet of 12 B777s, out of which two would be transferred to the defence ministry for VVIP use, a senior AI official said. “The decision was taken at a recent meeting between defence and aviation ministry officials and attended by top AI brass,” the official said.

In a significant departure from the past and on the lines of the US President’s Air Force One fleet, the two B777s once handed over to the defence ministry won’t be used for commercial operations by AI at all. At present, the B747s are deployed for commercial operations by AI when not in use for VVIP flights.

“An in-principle decision has been taken to transfer two B777s to the VIP fleet,” an AI spokesperson told HT. The planes in the VIP fleet are used by the Prime Minister and the President.

According to discussions, the government will buy out the two planes from AI, sources said.

“The planes would need extensive modifications and done up according to VIP requirements. It would also be fitted with sophisticated communication equipment and security kits for which certification would be needed from Boeing,” the official said.

“Other modalities are being worked out in consultation with Boeing officials. The transfer (of the planes) would not take place before the second half of 2015-16,” another senior AI official said.

As part of the arrangement being worked out, the aircraft would be maintained by the defence ministry with help from AI engineers, and pilots and cabin crew might be requisitioned from AI depending on requirement, sources said.

The options from Boeing were the four-engine B-747 and two-engine Boeing 777 and 787. Incidentally, Air India already has both the long range (LR) and extended range (ER) versions of the Boeing 777, as well as the 787 Dreamliner. The other options are from Airbus — four-engine A-340 and two-engine A-330, apart from the under development A-350.


But before the successor to the original "queen of the skies" (B-747) is found, a panel of secretaries of top ministries like defence, finance, aviation, external affairs, home along with brass of the Special Protection Group(SPG) will this month meet to address two key issues — whether the new plane should be two-engine or four-engine and whether AI or Indian Air Force should be operating and maintaining the chariot of the sky. "There is a huge price difference in the price of twin-engine and four-engine jets. So there is the obvious financial angle," said highly placed sources.[6]

The IAF maintains and operates a fleet of Boeing Business Jets for use by top VVIPs like President, Vice-President and Prime Minister for flying within India and to neighbouring countries. "The secretaries will decide whether the new aircraft should be with AI or IAF. If they decide in favour of the IAF, then the defence establishment will decide the successor aircraft. Else, civil aviation authorities will take a technical call on which plane is best suited for the VVIPs," said the source. The final decision will be taken by the highest echelons of the government. However given the long-distance requirement, the choice for both the defence and civil aviation authorities is going to be limited to the options from Boeing and Airbus. [7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]