Tarun Shukla. New Delhi: Air India Ltd’s first Boeing Co. 787, scheduled to land in New Delhi on Saturday, is expected to debut commercially on the Dubai route before being deployed in flights to Europe.
“This will be a soft launch,” said an Air India executive, who did not want to be named, adding plans are still being worked out.
The first of the 787s, also known as the Dreamliner, with the registration VT-ANH and flight number AI170 is flying from Boeing’s Charleston facility to Delhi via Frankfurt. “There will be a customary water cannon salute,” said an airline official, who declined to be named.
A team of over two dozen people had been stuck in Charleston, waiting to ferry the aircraft to India for a month. Air India’s executive director of operations A.S. Soman, chief flight inspector Arvind Kathpalia and general manager (training) Amitabh Singh are among the team members.
Given the delay, plans for a ceremonial welcome, including Indian Air Force fighter jets escorting the plane in and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attending, have been scrapped.
For the first 10 days, the plane will be on the ground as the paperwork is to be completed. After this, it will ply on the Delhi-Bangalore and Delhi-Kolkata routes as per regulatory requirements. Then it is expected to fly the Delhi-Dubai route for a few weeks. In November, Air India expects to launch flights to Paris or Frankfurt from Delhi with the new 787s, replacing the existing Boeing 777s.
Air India is only the third airline to induct the 787 after ANA and Ethiopian and should be ready to deal with any technical problems that come with a new plane, said a foreign airline executive who asked not to be named.
“Every new aircraft has some teething issues,” this executive said. “What can be seen from the ANA experience is that the 787’s dispatch reliability has been suffering. Just yesterday, they cancelled some flights due to pump leakages. This may be normal teething glitches or it could more serious -- something like the Airbus A380 wing problems.”