The Boeing 777 that will soon replace the ageing VVIP jumbo jets used by the president, VP and PM on long-haul journeys has created a record by reaching Delhi in the fastest time for any commercial nonstop flying from the west coast of US to India — just over 14 hours. Air India on Wednesday decided to fly the B-777 (VT-ALV) from Boeing’s Seattle factory to India over the Pacific and Northern Russia, instead of the usual route it always takes over the Atlantic.
While this routing normally has adverse headwinds, being shorter by almost 1,000 km and favourable winds that day led to AI operations department deciding on this way. As a result, the future VIP aircraft reached Delhi in just 14 hours and 10 minutes on Wednesday. Flying the Atlantic route takes anywhere between 15 and 16 hours.
The record time taken by this flight has now led AI to contemplate flying its nonstop from San Francisco (SFO) to Delhi also on this route on favourable wind days, cutting the travel time from an average 16-17 hours of this popular flight — the only nonstop between India and west coast of US — to less than 15 hours.
“We saved close to $6,000 in fuel and overflying expenses, apart from shaving off flying time, while bringing the B-777 from Seattle to India on Wednesday. We flew over Northern Russia. We may now take this route on SFO-Delhi sector when wind direction is favourable for flying west to India,” said a senior AI official.
On Delhi-SFO route, AI flies east over the Pacific and returns over the Atlantic. This is done to make use of favourable tailwinds — winds blowing in the same direction as the aircraft flying and making it go faster — all the way and save both fuel and time. Now AI SFO-Delhi may also be over the Pacific to cut expenses and flying time whenever wind flow direction is favourable for that routing.
Apart from VT-ALV, AI is to get one more B 777-300 extended range (ER) this month which will be used as the next VVIP planes, replacing the over 25-year-old Jumbo Jets India’s top dignitaries currently fly for long journeys. These planes will be retrofitted by Boeing with the most modern security and communication systems and are expected to be ready for use in less than two years. The future AI-1 or IAF-1 (depending on who maintains and operates VVIP aircraft once AI is privatised) has already created its first record by flying from Seattle to Delhi in just over 14 hours.
“The plane has come with normal passenger seating. The modalities is being worked out if it goes for retrofitting right away; by whom, meaning AI or IAF; and if it could be used by AI for some time,” said another official.
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