Monday, December 20, 2021

Air India flight from and to North America to save an hour, Hindu Kush route comes to rescue

New Delhi: Air India’s popular nonstops between Delhi and North America have just become a lot faster by cutting about an hour in flying time, thanks to the Hindu Kush route.

Since the closure of the Afghan airspace for non-defence aircraft on August 16, AI Boeing 777s flying between India and North America took a longer route — leading to more flying time and fuel burn. They flew via south Pakistan below Afghanistan and, then, entered Iran-Turkey-beyond, instead of the shorter Pakistan-Afghanistan-Turkmenistan/Uzbekistan route earlier.

Since Thursday, AI B777s have started heading straight north, over the Hindu Kush range and, then, taking the usual route to the west. As a result, the flying time of AI 101 (Delhi-New York JFK) is now going to be less than 16 hours, instead of the over 16.5 hours on the longer route avoiding Afghanistan — leading to fuel saving of 7 tonnes one-way.

On December 16, captains Zoya Agarwal, R Someshwar, Sandeep Mukhedkar and Abhay Agarwal operated AI’s first B777 (VT-ALQ named Manipur) over the Hindu Kush while operating from Toronto to Delhi. Pilots describe this as a “very critical and challenging sector”, given the high mountain ranges the aircraft flies over.

Incidentally captain Zoya was also among the pilots who had operated AI’s first San Francisco-Bengaluru flight — one of the world’s longest nonstops — this January that took the polar route. “Our management played a critical role in getting this route cleared for the B777s. Cutting flying time means less fuel burn and lower emissions, something we did by taking the polar route and, now, with the Hindu Kush,” said a senior pilot.

20/12/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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