Air India had to rush a reserve plane to Berlin early Tuesday after Air India One, a Boeing 747 aircraft, that was to fly Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Canada developed an engine problem.
The snag, said sources, was noticed Monday evening and an emergency message sent to the Delhi headquarters of the national carrier.
“We got a message last evening and without any delay the stand-by Air India One plane was dispatched from Mumbai to Berlin early Tuesday,” an AI official said on condition of anonymity.
There was a problem with one of the engines and a probe had been ordered, sources said.
“Even a small glitch cannot be ignored when the PM is on board,” another Air India official said.
AI engineers could have resolved the issue, but they preferred not to take a chance, he said.
The PM left Berlin at 3.15pm (local time) for the Canadian capital Ottawa in the “stand-by aircraft”, an AI spokesperson said. Canada is the last stop of Modi’s three-nation tour that ends April 17.
India has five aging B747s to fly the president and the prime minister.
These four-engine double-deck aircraft are around 20 years old.
“The aircraft is specially modified and security systems and communication equipment installed before a VIP flight,” said a source.
Unlike the US president who has a dedicated Air Force One fleet, these B747s carry passengers when not ferrying the two leaders.
The planes normally fly to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, and also ferry pilgrims for Haj.
A problem with Air India One, which follows strict and highest safety checks, is rare.
But, the national carrier’s latest buy — the Dreamliner — has caused some trouble.
Between January and September 2014, AI reported 165 delays of over an hour on flights that used the B787 Dreamliner.
“All these delays were due to technical snags with the aircraft and not things like crew arriving late,” an AI official said.