An era in Indian aviation came to an end on June 16 when Air India flight 865 from Delhi landed in Mumbai that Sunday morning.

This was the Airbus 320-231 aircraft’s final revenue flight. The aircraft joined the Indian Airlines fleet in December 1994 and was the last of the 31 Airbus aircraft that Indian Airlines had ordered and operated over the decades.

During its active life, the last aircraft to retire from the fleet, which bore the MSN or Manufacturer Serial Number 499, flew 61,600 hours and undertook 38,000 landings, which many consider remarkable for a civilian aircraft. With an average of 10 hours of daily flying, the recently retired aircraft would have flown with the state-owned Indian carrier for close to two decades since its induction.

The first such Airbus — VT EPB — was delivered in 1989 and the last in December 1994. This was also the aircraft series which was grounded by the VP Singh government following the crash of an aircraft in Bengaluru. The grounding led to financial losses for the airline.

These aircraft are called the Airbus A-320 Current Engine Option (CEO) aircraft. Airbus 320-231’s last flight also drew the curtains on what many have called the “warhorse” of Indian Airlines, the only airlines which had this variety of aircraft in the world in its fleet. What made these 31 aircraft special is that they had four bogeys or four sets of wheels which allowed the aircraft to land in almost all the airports in the country.

In perhaps what is a fitting send-off to what many considered the backbone of Indian Airlines’ fleet, some of these decommissioned aircraft are now being used to provide on-the-job training to aircraft engineers. Some other aircraft of this vintage have either been sold off as scrap or are being used by entrepreneurs as restaurants.

“The aircraft (which flew on June 16) is still functional in all respects. However, it is not going to undertake any more flights as the Designed Life Limitation imposed by the manufacturer has been reached,” said a senior Air India official. Designed Life Limitation takes into account a specific number of flying hours and landings and take-offs that an aircraft is allowed to perform during its lifetime.

The aircraft, after being decommissioned, will now be parked in the hangar in Mumbai where it will provide on-the-job training to engineers. Two other aircraft from the same vintage are currently parked in hangars in Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram and are providing the training there.

“The aircraft will be kept in the Mumbai hangar in a fully functional state. This will be used for providing on-the-job training on the live aircraft to Air India Engineering Services (AIESL) and third party engineers on a payment basis,” a senior airline official said.

AIESL has huge infrastructure which caters to line and base maintenance, engine overhaul, accessories and component overhaul activities at main bases and line stations. AIESL is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air India.

The Airbus 320-231 aircraft will be used to simulate situations that an engineer might have to face on an aircraft currently in service with Air India or other airlines.

This will enable engineers to get more than just classroom learning as they will be able to get a “feel of the aircraft” as part of their learning experience, said an Air India official.