Air India One (AI-1), the Prime Minister’s exclusive private aircraft — a custom-built Boeing 777 — missed its alignment while the pilot was taxiing onto the runway at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) airport on Friday morning.
The aircraft was on a training sortie with no VIP on board. No damage to the plane or injuries were reported. Sources at Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) said that two private (chartered) jets scheduled to land at HAL airport were diverted to KIA following the runway incident.
According to sources, the AI-1 mainly used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President and Vice-President of India took off from Delhi at 3.48 am on Friday and landed at HAL at 8.32 am.
“There was no VIP on board and this was a routine sortie. The aircraft flew over Bengaluru sky before safely landing at the HAL airport this morning. And then, it had to take off to return to Delhi. There was no incident per se. The pilot while taxiing before the take-off, took a left turn instead of right at the turning pad. He immediately stopped and now the ground staff is trying to bring the aircraft back to the parking bay or tarmac from where he can taxi again and take off. There is no problem with the aircraft and nobody was injured,” a senior official from HAL told TOI.
The incident occurred around 11 am on the HAL runway. The specially retrofitted aircraft equipped with a top-end missile defence system remained stuck till Friday evening, possibly due to the absence of towing equipment and vehicles to muscle out large commercial jets, which were brought in from KIA. “The trainee pilot stopped at the turning pad and there was no overshooting of the runway. There were no commercial passengers in the aircraft,” HAL spokesman Gopal Sutar told TOI.
“The Air India One often flies into KIA and the HAL airport as part of its training exercise since it is important for the Indian Air Force pilots flying the wide-bodied VVIP aircraft to test on commercial flying conditions, as the city airport, to be acclimatized to all conditions and safety steps when leaders are on board,” a senior officer at KIA said.