Flight Plan

The final B787-800 adds to Air India’s fleet strength

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on January 09, 2018

Red carpet Air India CMD Rajiv Bansal with Boeing officials at the delivery   -  Gail Hanusa

The delivery marks the 125th Boeing aircraft with the national carrier

In early October, at the Boeing plant in Seattle, a gleaming new 787-800 aircraft in Air India’s trademark white and red colours was being readied for the 15-hour 19-minute non-stop flight to Delhi. The flight, which was given the number AI 160, also marked a red letter day in the over seven-decade long history of the Maharaja. This was the last of the 28 Boeing 787 aircraft that Air India had ordered as part of a 68-aircraft deal in January 2006.

The delivery of the last Boeing 787 aircraft was also special because it marked the 125th aircraft that the US-based manufacturer supplied to Air India. The airline is the largest operator of Boeing wide body aircraft in India.

Taking the delivery of the last aircraft were Rajiv Bansal, Chairman and Managing Director, Air India, and Vinod Hejamadi, Director, Finance. It was apt that these top officials were present. In 2006, the then CMD, V Thulasidas, did the honours, taking delivery of the first aircraft.

“We did a special puja near the nose wheel of the new aircraft for which coconuts were sourced from a nearby market,” recalls Captain Arvind Kathpalia, Director, Operations, who later climbed into the commander’s seat to start the engines and slowly taxi the aircraft for the flight to Delhi.

Boeing advantage

Over the last decade, the B787-800 has become the mainstay of Air India’s fleet. This family of aircraft takes Air India customers to Australia, the UK and Germany. It has helped the airline launch new destinations, including Rome, Madrid, Stockholm and Copenhagen. Also, given its fuel efficiency, the aircraft has helped Air India cut down its operating expenses.

The final aircraft had a smooth journey. From the US airspace, it entered Canada before turning to the Southern part of Iceland. From there, it travelled to the northern part of the United Kingdom, then on to Denmark, Germany Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan before entering Indian airspace covering a distance of 14,916 km.

“We were lucky to see the Northern Lights. It was a wonderful sight which lasted 15-20 minutes,” says Captain Kathpalia about his most memorable part of the flight.

Before taking off for Delhi on October 11, the crew performed three test flights, more commonly known as “customer acceptance flights” — short flights that normally last about an hour during which any teething issues can be sorted out before an airline takes final delivery.

For Captain Kathpalia, this was the third delivery flight for Air India. And unlike an earlier delivery flight, which was also for a Boeing 787 and made a technical stop in Frankfurt, this was a non-stop flight. The aircraft will start its commercial operations by operating short haul domestic flights before it is pressed into service on international routes.

Published on November 14, 2017

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