The Prime Minister is set to fly in his new, specially designed VVIP aircraft from March with the arrival of the entire Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) fleet from the US. Sources confirmed that all three VVIP aircraft have reached the Capital and would be formally inducted in February and would begin operating by March.
The Indian Air Force's Communications Squadron, which ferries the President, Prime Minister and top Cabinet ministers, has stepped up the training of its crew to ensure that the jets begin VVIP duties by March.
The Air Force is at present sorting out 'teething problems' linked with the induction of new aircraft but is confident that the aircraft would start flying VVIPs within two months. A formal induction ceremony is scheduled towards the end of February.
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.
Sources said that the three aircraft are now being extensively flown across the country and are undergoing complete system checks. The Prime Minister's aircraft will be christened Rajdoot, the name of one of the three Russian TU 124s that were part of the VVIP Squadron in the 1970s.
One of the VVIP aircraft will be dedicated to the President while the third will be used to ferry special guests or senior ministers and will be used in the absence of the other two.
The Prime Minister at present relies on the ageing Boeing 737 of the IAF, smaller Embraer executive jets (14-15 passengers) and chartered aircraft from Air India for domestic and international travel. The new jets have a range of 3,140 nautical miles and a capacity to carry 60 passengers.
Shorter air hauls of the Prime Minister are also set to get more comfortable with the Government finalising a deal for a fleet of new helicopters with European aviation major Augusta Westland. The IAF at present operates the Mi 17 transport helicopter to ferry the Prime Minister.
Sources say that the existing fleet of five Embraer executive aircraft is also set to be strengthened with the induction of four more jets for travel by senior cabinet ministers and defence forces chiefs.
7 months ago