Wednesday, June 01, 2022

After 51 years, Maharaja 'retires' his 'queens of the skies'

New Delhi: Air India’s iconic Boeing 747s may have finally reached the end of the road after colouring international skies in the tricolour for over half a century. The Tata Group recently revamped the airline’s website and the jumbo jets are not shown as part of the fleet.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had this April deregistered the Maharaja’s last remaining four queen of the skies. If and when AI plans to use them again for commercial flights, it will have to undergo a return to service program leading to their re-registration.

So technically AI can use these nearly 30-year-old planes again after going through this process. But given their age, shortage of spares, condition of cabin and most importantly investment required, it remains to be seen if that happens.

Comments were sought from AI on the issue and the response is awaited.

The airline got its first jumbo jet, named Emperor Ashoka, in 1971. With the 747s, AI under JRD Tata had set new levels of inflight luxury. It had introduced a special “Palace in the Sky” livery and for this aircraft. The tastefully decorated staircase to the upper deck; jharokha flight panels; dewans and bar were way ahead of their time when introduced onboard these beautiful machines in the 1970 by JRD himself.

For about two years, the B747s used to fly the president, VP and PM on medium to long haul international trips. They could not fly to the Americas direct and used to take a halt in Europe, mostly Frankfurt. Then India got two state-of-the-art Boeing 777s — which unlike the jumbos that used to do both VVIP and regular flights will be dedicated for dignitaries — which can fly nonstop to virtually anywhere on the planet to and from India.

Once the VVIP duty ended, there was little use for the four-engine double deckers specially after fuel prices began skyrocketing. They mainly flew till 2021, exactly 50 years. The last high-profile assignment carried out by these curvaceous beauties was flying from Delhi to Wuhan in early 2020 to bring back Indian students from the epicentre of Covid.

01/06/22 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

To Read the News in full at Source, Click the Headline


Post a Comment