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Pooja and champagne as AI does Seattle-Delhi non-stop

Air India becomes the first Indian carrier to successfully complete a non-stop long haul flight from the US to India, reports Sujata Anandan.
Hindustan Times | By Sujata Anandan, Seattle/new Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 28, 2007 05:10 AM IST

Air India became the first Indian carrier to successfully complete a non-stop long haul flight from the US to India.

The first of Air India's six Boeing 777-200 LR aircraft, named “Andhra Pradesh”, took off from Boeing's air base facilility — which had the US president's official plane, Air Force One, parked alongside -- at 10.30 on the morning of July 26, US time and landed at the Indira Gandhi international airport in New Delhi at a little past 2pm on July 27.

The flight lasted just 14 hours and 25 minutes — and promises to cut jet lag for passengers.

Union Minister of state for Civil Aviation Praful Patel told Hindustan Times, "This flight has redefined Indian aviatian. And Air India will always be in the lead."

The official Indian flag carrier also managed to scotch speculation that rival Jet Airways, which is taking delivery of a similar aircraft on August 5, might beat Air India to the non-stop US flight, as the national carrier has been unable to sell seats for the flight in the short time since they went public about their non-stop service from Mumbai to New York. The non-stop service is priced considerably higher than th regular service.

In fact, a Boeing 777-200 LR in Jet Airways colours was parked alongside Air India's at the Boeing air base in Seattle.

However, the second 777-200LR that will arrive in India will also be Air India's “Assam” which will again land in New Delhi on Saturday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will welcome both aircraft and formally induct them into the Air India fleet.

In Seattle, the aircraft took off to chants of the Gurbani. "Fly well", said television screens aboard the aircraft and that is the experience that Air India is offerring its passengers aboard the 777.

In cutting the flight time by half, Air India today flew over the North Pole -- another first for the airline and a great point of worry to its pilots before the plane took off. All, however, ended well.

Champagne corks popped and a toast raised for Air India and Boeing in the blistering Delhi afternoon. Parallely, Air India chairman K. Tulasidas offered a formal thanksgiving pooja on the tarmac.

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