President to soar aloft on ‘desi’ Air Force One WednesdayMarch 31st, 2009 - 7:56 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) President Pratibha Patil, the supreme commander of the armed forces will Wednesday undertake her maiden flight in the Indian version of Air Force One, journeying to Assam in a newly-acquired Business Boeing Jet (BBJ) of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Patterned on the US president’s office-in-the-sky, the jet is one of three the IAF has purchased and which is equipped with state-of-the-art security gadgets and the latest communication systems.
With the flight, Patil will also be formally inducting the jets into the IAF’s Air Headquarters Communications Squadron that is based at the Palam Air Force station here. The squadron ferries the president, the vice president, the prime minister, the service chiefs and other dignitaries.
“The president will fly to Lilabari in Assam on April 1, from where she will take a chopper to go to Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh,” a senior official at the Rashtrapati Bhawan presidential palace told IANS, requesting anonymity.
The president will be accompanied by an entourage of 20 officials on a four-day tour of the northeastern states.
The first BBJ will be christened Rajdoot, a name initially borne by a Russian TU-124 and then by the Boeing-737 the new jet is replacing. The BBJ is based on a newer generation Boeing-737.
The aircraft will enter service nine months behind schedule due to last minute integration problems of the missile defence system and sorting out of end-user verification laws with the US.
“The three aircraft are being extensively flown across the country and are undergoing complete system checks. One aircraft will be dedicated for the president and the prime minister, another will be used to ferry special guests and senior ministers, while one will be on standby,” a senior IAF official added.
The aircraft have a spacious VVIP cabin and can carry a total of 48 passengers.
The new jets have been configured to the same security specifications as the Boeing-747 that flies the US president. They are equipped with sophisticated electronic countermeasures, a protection suite and chaff dispensers to ward off missile threats, a secure satellite and VHF communication suite and other security gadgets.
Powered by two CFM-56 engines that are jointly manufactured by the US General Electric and the French Snecma, the long-range BBJs are designed to function as command posts in the event of an emergency. The jets are quieter, more fuel-efficient and have a range of up to 6,000 nautical miles (11,100 km).