India’s ‘Air Force One’ Used On First Foreign Trip

On Friday morning, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Dhaka, Bangladesh. For the first time on an international state-visit, he traveled in one of the new Air India One Boeing 777-300s. The two VVIP planes only arrived in Delhi in October last year and had thus far only operated to domestic destinations.

Air India One
One of the Air India One Boeing 777s left from Delhi for its first international mission this morning. Image: Simple Flying

It is not only corporate business travel and holidays that dropped to all-time lows in 2020. The number of in-person state-visits also sank to near non-existent levels. However, as case numbers begin to go down in certain parts of the world, government leaders are once more making their way across borders to meet with their counterparts.

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From Delhi to Dhaka

For India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, this week’s two-day visit to Bangladesh was the first opportunity to take the new Air India One out for a spin beyond India’s borders. The aircraft, registered as VT-ALW, departed from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport at 08:00 on Friday. It landed two hours and two minutes later at 10:32 at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The two Triple Sevens in India since October

The three-year-old Boeing 777-300 is one of two custom-configured by Boeing for the government of India and operated by the country’s flag-carrier. The other, VT-ALV, was the first to arrive in Delhi after its refitting on October 1st last year, whereas VT-ALW joined it on October 24th. The initial plans were for delivery to take place in August, but it was delayed due to technical reasons.

Thus far, the two VIP Triple Sevens have operated about 13 flights each domestically from Delhi to destinations such as Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Ahmedabad. But the honor of the first international representation trip to Dhaka thus went to VT-ALW.

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The new Air India One first international flight lasted two hours and two minutes. Photo:

Replacing four Boeing 747s

The 777-300s are a significant upgrade from the previous arrangement for governmental travel. Prior to receiving the VVIP-configured jets, Air India operated a fleet of four aging Boeing 747-400s on behalf of the country’s leadership. The aircraft were never especially configured for VIP service but rather flew regular commercial routes and deployed for the government when necessary.

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The two Boeing 777-300s have replaced Air India’s previous VIP fleet of four 747s. Photo: Getty Images

A range of upgrades and acronyms

That state of affairs has changed with the arrival of VT-ALV and VT-ALW. The aircraft are reportedly fitted with an entirely different interior, although images of these are yet to be made public. In fact, Air India employees onboard one of their ferry flights got into a lot of trouble for leaking photos of the cabin.

More is known about the new, state-of-the-art security systems called Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM), Self-Protection Suites (SPS), and Advanced Electronic Warfare Suites (ADVEW). These protect and counteract potential attacks on the planes under operations.

What do you think of the new Air India One? Leave a comment below and let us know.