Last VVIP flight by `Tanjore’

March 31st, 2009 - 2:09 pm ICT by ANI  

Manmohan Singh By Smita Prakash

Onboard Air India One, Mar.31 (ANI): As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh boards the last commercial jet commissioned by Air India for VVIP flights, one can’t help but get nostalgic.

Called Air India 001, this is just another Boeing 737-400 operated by the national carrier. The 20-year-old aircraft is modified whenever the Prime Minister or President travel overseas. The Prime Minister has a small cabin to himself which has a double bed, a table and some chairs. It is also equipped with office facilities.

The official delegation comprising of his staff, officials, security detail, reporters are seated in the business and economy class. The aircraft also carries a huge amount of cargo which includes communication and security related equipment as well as catering goods.But, all this will soon be history. After the Prime Minister returns from the G-20 summit on Friday (April 3), this aircraft will go back into commercial service.

The Prime Minister and President will hence forth use three special jets bought from the United States at a cost of Rs.734 crores.

These latest aircraft of the Boeing 737 series are equipped with Self Protection Suites (SPS) for electronic warfare integrated onto the aircraft to provide greater security from enemy missiles.

SPS include radar warning receivers, missile-approach warning systems and counter-measure systems. The aircraft would have the capability to shoot metal chaff and flares to deviate radar-guided missiles and heat-seeking missiles off the track.

The first of the three jets landed in India in August last year, with the other two following subsequently. Since then, the aircraft have undergone extensive flight trials and the crew has been trained for handling the IAF’s latest induction. To be named ‘Rajdoot’ after the first set of Tu-124s used by the squadron for VIP in 1970, the new Boeing Business Jets (BBJs) are fitted with the fuel-efficient CFM-56 engines from US General Electric and French Snecma, and can cover a range of 6,000 nautical miles or 11,000 km. However, it will not be the Prime Minister’s prerogative to be the first user of these aircraft. President Pratibha Patil will first be flown on the inaugural flight of Indian Air Force’s Boeing Business Jets from the Palam Air Force base on April 1. She will also be flying to Poland and Spain. Later in April, the Prime Minister would probably use the BBJs to crisscross the country while campaigning for a second term. (ANI)

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