If you’ve seen a close-up of Air Force One in a Hollywood thriller, the Rs 312-crore Indian version of the US president’s Flying Oval office comes across as somewhat of a disappointment. The Boeing 737-700, specially configured for Indian VVIPs, lacks the splendour of the most prominent symbol of the American presidency.
President Pratibha Patil flew to the northeast in the desi Air Force One’s inaugural flight on Wednesday.
Boarding from the front, one walks straight into a cramped conference room with a 32-inch LCD and a dull painting. The conference room in the three Boeing business jets (BBJs), formally inducted in the IAF on Wednesday, can seat only six VVIPs. Walk out straight into the presidential suite, which looks rather dark with lacklustre decoration. It has a 24-inch LCD, inbuilt closets and medical equipment.
The carpet and the panels separating different sections are in different hues of green and white. The interior configuration is a mix of economy and business seats. Six economy seats for staff separate the VVIP suite and the 12-seater executive zone with personalised screens and ports for LAN access. The rear end houses the ‘staff zone’ with 36 seats. The BBJ has satellite communications, Internet, fax and a printer.
Air force chief F H Major admits the desi Air Force One cannot be compared with the real thing, but “the BBJ meets our requirements.”
The BBJ comes with a self-protection suite against incoming missile threats, autoland capability, enhanced ground proximity warning systems and intruder detection system.
The airplane, however, lacks the endurance for non-stop international flights for which the desirable range is 4,500 nautical miles.