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First Dreamliner for Air India to land tomorrow

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NEW DELHI (PTI): After a four-year delay, Air India's first of the 27 long-haul Boeing 787 Dreamliner would land in New Delhi on Saturday with the airline taking its delivery at the US aircraft-maker's Charleston plant on Thursday.

The new 256-seater aircraft would touch down at Delhi's IGI Airport on September 8, an Air India spokesperson said, adding that the plane was received by Capt Soman and Capt Amitabh Singh at the South Carolina Boeing factory on behalf of the national carrier.

The airline, which had placed orders for 27 of these aircraft six years ago, would get the delivery of two more Dreamliners within the next few weeks. With these new planes, Air India plans to expand its international operations and launch new services, including those to Australia.

Air India took delivery of the plane after the Union Law Ministry cleared the Delay Compensation Agreement, which would be signed between Air India and Boeing. The agreement is to clinch the compensation deal to be given by the US aircraft major for almost four-year delay in deliveries.

The first batch was to have been delivered in September 2008 but design and production issues at Boeing delayed deliveries. The agreement was cleared by the Union Cabinet in August and was being fine-tuned by the Law Ministry.

"The 787 will allow Air India to open new routes in a dynamic marketplace and provide the best in-flight experience for our passengers," AI CMD Rohit Nandan said, adding "today is a great day for Air India as the most technologically advanced and fuel efficient airplane in the world joins our fleet".

Boeing's Senior Vice President (Asia Pacific and India Sales) Dinesh Keskar said in a statement, "I am sure Air India and their customers will be thrilled to experience the revolutionary features on the 787, an airplane that will be the key focus of the airline's turnaround plan.

The airline would get eight of these twin-engine aircraft by March next year.

The B-787 has the range and capability to allow Air India to fly on many routes, including the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Australia. The mid-size plane has four variants, with the longest-range one capable of flying over 15,000 kms non-stop.

For the next few weeks, the aircraft would be operated on certain short and medium-haul sectors, including Delhi-Bangalore, to enable the pilots and crew get accustomed to its landings and take-offs. It would be deployed on long-haul international routes in November or December.

The plane is made of carbon composite material, which makes it light-weight and therefore is considered less fuel guzzler. Boeing claims the plane consumes 20 per cent less fuel compared with the similar-sized B-767s and better fuel efficiency implies lower flying costs.

The aircraft for Air India has been configured to accommodate 256 seats, 18 full-flat Business Class seats and 238 Economy Class seats.

It features a host of latest sophisticated technologies, which includes mood-lighting inside the entire cabin.

The In-Flight Entertainment system, supplied by Thales, includes large LCD display screens, designed to provide passengers with audio, video, games, entertainment and communications features better than the latest in-home capabilities.

Air India was the second world carrier to have placed orders for this aircraft but became the fifth airline to get this plane as delay in clearing of the compensation agreement further pushed the plane's deliveries to Air India.

Those airlines which have inducted and are already operating this aircraft include Japan's All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines and Ethiopian Airways.

According to Boeing, as many as 47 airlines across the world have ordered nearly 900 Dreamliners.

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