The Indian Air Force on Friday said it wouldn’t fly President Pranab Mukherjee on the controversial AW101 VVIP chopper.
Pranab, who is also the Supreme Commander of the armed forces, is to fly to Pokhran in Rajasthan from Jaisalmer on February 22 to watch the IAF’s massive fire power demonstration.
“The pilots are still in the conversion stage on the choppers and they need to clock a particular number of flying hours on the machines before VVIPs can be flown on them,” IAF spokesperson Gerard Galway said.
Incidentally, Pranab was the Defence Minister from May 2004 to September 2006 when the tender for 12 VVIP helicopters was floated after changing the specifications to allow more companies, including the ultimate winner, AgustaWestland, to participate.
Galway also noted that the pilots of the Communication Squadron, based in Palam, Delhi, are currently going through conversion training on the AW101 helicopters.
The graft-tainted AgustaWestland has already delivered three AW101 under the February 2010 contract. Of the 12 copters, nine will have the swanky and secure VVIP configuration and the rest will carry VIP cargoes.
The pilots’ training on these copters will continue till the Defence Ministry directs the IAF on what to do with the three helicopters, sources said.
The next batch of three helicopters are to be delivered between March and June, while the rest six will be supplied by March 2014.