Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Why is Air India not using its four Boeing 747s for rescue operations from Ukraine

The Indian government has planned to operate as many as 31 evacuation flights until March 8 to evacuate thousands of Indians stranded in crisis-hit Ukraine.

Air India, Air India Express, IndiGo, SpiceJet, and the Indian Air Force will operate flights under Operation Ganga to bring back the around 20,000 students who are enrolled with various colleges in Ukraine.

Just about 1,400 Indians have been flown back to India in the first six evacuation flights from Ukraine that were operated over the last five days. The evacuation process has been slow as Air India has been using smaller-capacity aircrafts such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner instead of large-capacity, long-haul Boeing 747.

A Boeing 747 can seat up to 600 passengers, while the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which have been used by Air India for the flights that have been operated till now, have a capacity of 330 passengers.

A combination of a shortage of pilots to fly the B747, lack of maintenance, and congestion at Bucharest airport in Romania and Warsaw Chopin Airport in Poland have prevented Air India from deploying its jumbo jets as part of Operation Ganga, sources told Moneycontrol.

“As part of Air India’s modernisation programme, pilots who used to fly the Boeing 747 planes have been asked to fly the Boeing 787 planes. In order to return back to flying the Boeing 747, they will have to do an extended ground refresher course, a couple of simulators courses, and route checks, all of which will delay rescue operations,” one person said.

A government official added that out of the four Boeing 747 planes that Air India has in its fleet, only two are currently airworthy. They can only be operated after getting a certificate of registration.

He added that with many countries carrying out rescue missions to fly back their citizens from countries around Ukraine, the airports in both Romania and Poland are better equipped to handle smaller planes like the B787 more efficiently.

“Landing clearance and take-off clearance at airports in both Romania and Poland are easier for smaller planes as multiple runways don’t need to be cleared, which would be a requirement during landing or taking off of a jumbo jet,” the official said.

02/03/22 Yaruqhullah Khan/Moneycontrol

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