The 747 flies normal routes when not flying Air India One duties. Before flying the President or PM, it is retrofitted with special interiors, state-of-the-art communication systems and is said to carry defensive aid and counter-measure systems.
It is the future of this aircraft, or its replacement, that hangs in the balance once the national
carrier is privatised.
“We have to see what needs to be done, whether new planes need to be bought. The air force will take over these duties,” the official said.
It has been reported that the government plans to replace the ageing Boeing 747 with Boeing 777s. There is a possibility that these will not only be operated by the IAF but also owned by it. Such a decision will involve multiple departments, including the Prime Minister’s Office, and the civil aviation and defence ministries.
In June, the Cabinet gave in-principle approval for disinvesting stake in state-owned Air India. The government has set up a group of ministers (GoM), headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. It will decide how much stake will be sold and the process of disinvestment.
Some of the issues that the GoM will deliberate upon are how to tackle the unsustainable portion of Air India’s debt, eligibility criteria for bidders, hiving-off assets to a shell company, and disinvestment of the airline’s profit-making subsidiaries.
An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated that though owned by Air India, the 747 is operated by IAF pilots and technical crew. The error is regretted