New Delhi: Probably the last shot as the national carrier, Air India flew over the North Pole on Independence Day, becoming the first Indian airline to operate commercial flights over the polar region.
The carrier’s Delhi-San Francisco flight, which usually takes the route over the Atlantic or the Pacific ocean, flew over zero degree north on Thursday in a unique feat, the Times of India reported.
Talks of complete privatisation of the national carrier have been underway since Air India became a liability to the exchequer in a highly competitive air travel market, incurring losses year after year and forcing the government to regularly infuse taxpayer funds.
As Air India’s Boeing 777 debuted over the polar region, two of its flight plans had to be chalked up considering Pakistan's decision to close its airspace for Indian flights. “We were asked to be prepared for a Pakistan airspace closure on August 15. Had they shut down their airspace to Indian flights, we still would have flown the polar route, though with a different routing that took the aircraft over Strait of Hormuz and then northbound for the pole,” an Air India source told TOI.
The Delhi-San Francisco flight AI-173 took off at 4am with about 243 passengers on board. The flight flew over Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Russia and then overflew North Pole by 12.27pm to cross over to the other side of Earth.
Although, Air India has flights between India and North America over the Atlantic and Pacific sector, the polar routes were never utilised until Thursday.