NEW DELHI: Air India, which has been operating flights for evacuation of Indians stranded in war-torn Ukraine, has to depend on its smaller aircraft (Boeing 787 Dreamliner) due to a shortage of pilots that fly bigger aircraft like B 747.
Nearly 1,400 Indians have flown back to India in the first six evacuation flights from Ukraine, which began five days back. More people could have been evacuated had Air India been able to send a larger capacity aircraft like B 747.
While B 787 Dreamliner has a capacity of 330 passengers, a B 747 can fly up to 600 passengers.
According to sources, this has happened due to a shortage of pilots that fly this aircraft. It is reliably learned that the pilots who were flying B 744 (B 747-400) have been sent to fly B 777, B787, and A320.
According to sources, the four B 747 aircraft that Air India has at present are being considered to be utilized later for cargo and Haj operations (2 each).
Since the B 747 pilots have been asked to fly B744, in order to return back to flying B 747 they will have to do an extended ground refresher course, a couple of simulators, and route checks.
The Boeing 744 simulator was decommissioned due to maintenance, and in the interim pilots were using the simulator of Singapore Airlines.
Air India has refused to comment on the shortage of pilots. "Positioning of aircraft depends on various factors, including the availability of aircraft, ground handling infrastructure at destination airports, fuel efficiency, etc. Due to operational reasons and infrastructure feasibility. B 787 aircraft are being used now,’’ an Air India spokesperson told TNIE.
Air India operates 141 aircraft, including Air India Express’s 24 Boeing B737-800s. Around 43 of these are on lease. The Air India fleet includes Airbuses (A319-100, A320-200, A320-200neo, A321-200) and Boeings (B747-400, B777-200(LR), B777-300(ER), and B787-800).
Meanwhile, more airlines from India are now going to be flying back stranded Indians from Ukraine. These include Indigo, Spicejet, and Air India Express from Delhi to Budapest and Bucharest.