Air India One 777 Gets Approved To Land At A New Indian Airport

India’s Vijayawada International Airport recently conducted a successful test flight, allowing it to handle large aircraft carrying VVIPs and passengers. The flight involved none other than the retrofitted Boeing 777-300ER, which serves as Air India One. Let’s see what this latest development means for the airport serving the city of Vijayawada in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Air India One
Air India One’s Boeing 777-300ER conducted a successful test flight at Vijayawada International Airport recently. Photo: Ketan Lanke via Wikimedia Commons

Test flight

Vijayawada International Airport recently extended its runway length from 7,500 ft (2,286 m) to 11,024 ft (3,360 m). This makes it eligible to handle large aircraft such as the Boeing 777. In the last week of August, the 777-300ER, which serves as Air India One when carrying India’s President and Vice President, and Prime Minister, made a successful test flight at the airport.

As reported by the Deccan Chronicle, the aircraft flew in from Delhi and conducted an “overshoot flight” in which it flew very low over the runway before continuing on its flight further ahead. The airplane was not carrying any passengers and was meant to check if the new runway was technically equipped for future VVIP arrivals using large airplanes.

Air India One
The 777s from Air India One’s fleet have been regularly performing test flights at various Indian airports. Photo: Joshua96Sam via Wikimedia Commons

One of many such flights

Air India One is the call sign given to any aircraft that carries the President, Vice President, and Prime Minister of India. For the longest time, the Government of India had borrowed one of Air India’s Boeing 747-400 for conducting such VVIP flights. Finally, in late 2020, the country received its first customized VVIP fleet of two retrofitted Boeing 777-300ERs.

The aircraft have been conducting many such test flights across various airports in the country. Just last month, one of the two 777s got stuck at HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) Airport in Bengaluru while taxiing towards the runway as part of a routine training flight.

Air India Boeing 747 Getty
Before the retrofitted 777s, the Government of India used Air India’s Boeing 747-400 for Air India One flights. Photo: Getty Images

The dedicated VVIP fleet comes equipped with state-of-the-art missile defense tech and an advanced communication system. Before being customized, the two planes were briefly part of Air India’s commercial fleet. In March 2021, Air India One was used for the first time for a foreign trip when it flew India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on an official visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh.

What does this mean for Vijayawada airport?

The extended runway at the Vijayawada International Airport has been operational since July this year. The airport was given international status in 2017, and the runway was part of a larger project when a transit terminal was commissioned the same year.

Air India A320neo
The biggest aircraft operating out of Vijayawada airport at the moment is the Airbus A320. With the longer runway, this could soon change. Photo: Airbus

Currently, the airport sees mostly turboprops connecting it to nearby regional destinations. At the moment, the biggest aircraft operating out of Vijayawada is the Airbus A320. With the longer runway, the airport can welcome bigger aircraft such as the Boeing 777 and Airbus A330.

Future prospects

The recent test flight is a green signal for Vijayawada airport not just to receive VVIPs but also increased air traffic in the future. The airport’s management feels that the city has a huge appetite for international travel. The newly equipped airport could definitely serve that need by inviting more international flights using big and small aircraft.

What do you feel about the recent test flight at the Vijayawada International Airport? How will the longer runway impact the airport’s operations in the coming years? Please share your comments.

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