Air India Bids Farewell to its Last Boeing 747s

3 min read

On Monday, 22 April 2024, Mumbai farewelled one of the last Air India Boeing 747 aircraft. The aircraft, registered VT-EVA, was deregistered by the Indian regulator DGCA following its retirement.

 The Boeing 747 which was named “Agra” departed Mumbai airport for the United States, bearing a temporary registration under a permit to fly.

The Final Boeing 747s

For decades, the iconic outline of the Boeing 747 graced the skies as part of Air India’s fleet. However, a chapter has now come to a close with the retirement of the airline’s last 747s. This has marked the end of an era for both Air India and aviation enthusiasts alike.

The decision to retire the 747s stemmed from economic considerations. The Tata Group, which acquired Air India in 2022, opted for newer, more fuel-efficient models.

These modern airplanes offer significant operational cost savings while reducing environmental impact.

“Agra” was one of four of the Indian carriers Boeing 747’s deregistered by the aviation regulator in April 2022. The aircraft had not been an operational service since February 2020.

The three remaining aircraft are currently parked at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (BOM).

While the economic rationale behind the decision is sound, the retirement of the 747s undoubtedly tugs at the heartstrings of aviation fans.

PilotGabra, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Air India 747 Operations

Air India’s Boeing 747s served multiple purposes throughout their service:

  • Commercial flights: The primary use was for long-haul passenger flights on international routes. The 747’s large capacity made it ideal for carrying a significant number of passengers across continents, efficiently connecting major destinations on Air India’s network.
  • VVIP transport: Air India also configured some 747s specifically for transporting VIPs, including the President, Vice President, and Prime Minister of India. These specially modified aircraft offered luxurious amenities and enhanced security features for high-profile passengers.
  • Evacuation missions: Air India’s 747s weren’t limited to commercial and VIP use. Their large cargo capacity also proved valuable during emergencies. For instance, they were used for medical evacuation flights. These were carried out in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to bring people back from Wuhan, China.

Summary

The “Queen of the Skies,” as the 747 is fondly nicknamed, has played a pivotal role in aviation history.

Its spacious cabin and long-haul capabilities revolutionized air travel, making it possible to connect continents with greater ease.

Air India’s final 747 operational flight took place in March 2021 on the Delhi-Mumbai route. In a touching tribute, the pilots even performed a wing wave as a farewell gesture, a moment captured by aviation photographers and cherished by enthusiasts.

The four remaining 747s were subsequently sold to a US-based company, marking the final chapter for these giants in Air India’s service.

The retirement of the 747s herald’s the continuing shift towards a new era in aviation, prioritizing fuel efficiency and environmental consciousness.

However, the legacy of the magnificent ‘Queen of the Skies’ will and the memories they hold will undoubtedly continue to inspire future generations of aviators and travelers.


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