The job of a pilot is much more difficult than what we actually feel. It not only requires a good amount of knowledge and experience to fly a plane but also nerves of steel. This is because it is the pilot who is solely responsible for the safety of his passengers. Any small mistake is enough to take the lives of hundreds of people. This job becomes a lot more challenging when the person who is traveling in the plane happens to be the most important person in the country.
The flag carrier Air India is responsible for carrying the VVIPs in and outside the country. It uses the Boeing 747-400 aircraft for this purpose.
Presently, we have five such aircraft in our country. The aircraft, known as Air India One, is under the charge of Indian Air Force and is monitored from the Palam Air Force Station situated at New Delhi. It is worth noting that there is no such plane as Air India One. The name of the Boeing 747-400 aircraft becomes Air India One only when our Prime Minister travels on that aircraft. The name is a call sign signaling that a VVIP is on board. In our country, President, Vice President, and the Prime Minister are ranked as the top three VVIPs.
There is a general perception among Indians that the Indian Air Force pilots fly the Air India One. This statement is far from reality as the IAF pilots are not trained to fly Boeing 747-400 aircraft. There is a lot of difference between aircraft used by the IAF and that of the Boeing, which is a commercial aircraft. So the question arises who pilots PM Narendra Modi’s Air India One?
It is the Air India pilots who fly the plane for the VVIPs.
There is a panel of 8 pilots who are chosen for this important job. Among these 8 pilots, four pilots are always on board out of which two fly the plane at any point in time. The pilots that are in the panel generally hold a very good track record. They also have a long experience in flying.
Currently, the most experienced person in the panel is Captain Mehta who is given the task to command all the VVIP flights in and outside the country.
He is the most preferred choice for both the domestic as well as overseas flights.
So do the IAF fighters escort the Air India One to a foreign country?
There are people who also believe that the IAF fighters escort the Air India One whenever the head of state is on a visit to a foreign country. This claim is also not true as it is the privilege of the host country to receive our head of state and so the Air Force of the host country escorts our Prime Minister or other VVIPs. It is done as a mark of honor and this protocol is followed by most of the countries in the world. One such instance is when our PM was on a visit to France in 2015, his Air India One aircraft was escorted by the Rafale jets of French Air Force.
These pilots are the best in their field and therefore are chosen for the work that involves the safety and security of such high profile people. They fly often so the VVIPs get to know them well. It is a matter of pride for them to do the kind of job that is so much important for the whole nation.