New Delhi: The advanced Boeing 787 Dreamliner of Air India touched down at Delhi's IGI Airport today, ending an over four-year wait of the struggling national carrier to add this next-generation airplane in its fleet.
The plane, painted in red and yellow livery of Air India, landed at the main runway of the airport at 1705 hours and was given water-cannon salute as it taxied to the bay.
After parking, a small religious ceremony was conducted to welcome the aircraft in the presence of Air India CMD Rohit Nandan and senior Civil Aviation Ministry and airline officials.
The Dreamliner took 15 hours of flying time from Boeing's Charleston factory in South Carolina in the US to Delhi, plus a 90-minute stopover at Frankfurt for re-fuelling, the commander of the aircraft, Capt A S Soman said.
"It was a very smooth flight. It has a very quite cabin and there is much less fatigue (for the pilot). It is both a pilot and passenger friendly airplane," he said.
Air India, which ordered 27 Dreamliners six years ago, would get two more of these planes in the next few weeks. A total of eight of them would arrive by March next year, including five by December, while the national carrier would get six more in the 2012-13 fiscal.
The aircraft would ultimately become the mainstay of Air India's global operations and is key to its turnaround plan.
For Air India, the plane has been configured to have 256 seats -- 18 full-flat Business Class seats and 238 in Economy. It features a host of sophisticated technologies, including mood-lighting inside the cabin and large LCD display screens for in-flight entertainment.
For the next two months, Air India would use the B-787s to operate on select sectors like Delhi-Dubai, Delhi-Kolkata, Delhi-Bangalore and Delhi-Amritsar for the crew to practice more landings and take-offs. So far, a total 65 pilots have been trained to fly this plane.
The mid-size plane has four variants, with the longest -range one capable of flying over 15,000 kms non-stop.
By December, Air India would introduce these aircraft on new long-haul sectors like Melbourne and Sydney, apart from the older ones like Japan, Middleast and several European destinations.
A top official of its manufacturer Boeing recently described the aircraft as "the fundamentally right aircraft for Air India's turnaround plan".
The plane, made of carbon composite material, is light- weight and is considered less of a fuel guzzler. Boeing claims the plane consumes 20 percent less fuel compared with the similar-sized B-767s, thereby lowering flying costs.
The first batch was supposed to be delivered in September 2008 but design and production issues at Boeing delayed deliveries.
According to Boeing, the aircraft was ready for delivery in May but it got delayed over finalisation of compensation agreement between Air India and the aircraft manufacturer. The agreement deals with the compensation to be given by the US aircraft major for almost four-year delay in deliveries.
Air India was the world's second carrier to have placed orders for this aircraft. Delays in clearing of the agreement and in the plane's deliveries to Air India, made it the fifth airline to get it.
The airlines which have inducted and are already operating this aircraft are Japan's All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Ethiopian Airways and Lan Airlines of Chile.
First Published: Saturday, September 8, 2012, 09:44