As the headline puts it succinctly, it’s not always that one gets to hear about record-breaking feats from the quarters of Air India. But things can often be different- isn’t it?
A few hours back, Air India became the first-ever Indian airlines to fly over the North Pole. You read this right.
In what could perhaps be the airlines’ last independence day before the long-standing losses of the government-owned enterprise see its business succumb to a standstill toward the gallows of privatization, once and for all, it could be said, Air India’s finest hour has come a bit too late.
Not too long ago on August 16, Air India hoisted it’s Boeing 777 over the grand polar region. The celebrated fight that marked the historic feat was the Delhi-to-San Francisco flight.
This was, in a way incredible since the Boeing carrier flew over a zero degree north altitude. Here are some more details about the momentous flight:
The Delhi-San Francisco flight, AI-173, lifted off around 4 a.m with about 243 passengers onboard. It overflew Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and then overflew the North Pole- something that no Air India carrier had hitherto done- by around 12.27 pm.
It was around this time that the Air India flight would cross to the other side of the planet.
The captain of the flight- Mr. Rajneesh Sharma- didn’t shy from sharing some earnest views about a memorable journey, “when we crossed Russia, we left all air traffic behind. For close to nine hours, we saw no traffic, just endless expanse of snow and ice.” He was one of the two crew who operated the long flight all the way to San Francisco.
Giving the onboard passengers a taste of the historic flight, the captain also put it succinctly, stating, “on the occasion of the 73rd Independence Day, it’s a gift from Air India to all traveling public.”
Upon landing, every traveler aboard the Delhi-San Francisco flight would also be handed a certificate that marked the commencement of AI’s commercial flights over the North Pole.
But beyond all of this, what’s rather interesting is that, at present, Air India happens to be the only flight that has three routing options that take it over an interesting troika of air-routes- The Atlantic, the Pacific, and the North Pole.
But back in the day, the operations on the Delhi-San Francisco route weren’t perhaps as busy as they are today. It was back in 2007 when Air India operated on this route, a time where it operated a Boeing 777 from Seattle to Delhi. The fuel savings, on this route, are expected to be in the region of 2 to 7 tons.
And some of us may find it interesting enough that the said route between North America and Asia was also sometimes referred to as “Santa’s Short-Cut.”
But the first-ever airline to fly over the polar region was none other than Finnair, Finland’s national air carrier. That said, several airlines fly over this route regularly, among which happens to be- Air Canada, Aerochina, Emirates, and United Airlines.