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50th Anniversary : The Old Queen who refuses to retire

Amidst speculations of the fleet being phased out without a proper ceremony, Air India confirmed the Queen is here to stay.
With a rich history dating back to March 1971, the story of Air India and Boeing 747 turns 50 years old.

The airline received their first vintage 747-200B exactly 50 years back. The airframe was soon titled Emperor Ashoka after the Maurya dynasty Emperor Ashoka.
The world's first all jet airline gave it its new, iconic Palace in Sky livery and branding. The aircraft became a regular in operating non-stop routes between London, Tokyo and more exotic destinations.
It was termed the golden era for the Maharaja as the 747 era allowed it to truly explore international hubs and build a grand image of luxury and Indian hospitality around it.

A total of 14 B747-200 entered service under the Maharaja, followed by two unique B747-300M in the late 80s and a single -300 in 2006. The M variant had a cargo compartment at the rear section of the main deck. 
B747-400 soon followed suit in the 90s and 4 of them are still in limited service. Not only were they proven in passenger and cargo service, they earned their glory being the choice of aircraft for the dignitaries of the
nation for foreign visit. The callsign Air India One was always synonymous to the 747.

However it wasn't always smooth sailing for the Maharaja and 747, VT-EBD- the first Air India 747 crashed on the New Year's  Day, 1978 off the coast of Mumbai, making the once proud first Indian 747 the vessel for the deadliest air disaster in India. 
On 23 June 1985 tragedy struck again with the bombing of another 747-200, VT-EFO operating as flight 182 from Montreal to Delhi. 
With time, the 747-200 fleet was phased out. The complete 747-300 was scrapped. What remains of the 747-400 are ESO, ESP, EVA and EVB.
Recently they lost the pride of being the Presidential carrier with delivery of the two dedicated, modified B777-300ER which will be operated by the Air Force. 

With jumbo jets being shown the way out and the pandemic not helping the cause, it will be an interesting question to answer- for how long will we see the 747 flying under the colours of the Maharaja?
The 50 year old story still continues till it becomes just another page in the books of history.


Division News Published on 31-03-2021 by Prachyuryya Baruah

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