Air India (AI) has announced that it will start its first commercial service over the North Pole. The flight between New Delhi and San Francisco will commence on August 15 and will be operated by Captain Ranjeesh Sharma and Captain Digvijay Singh.
Currently, the route that the New Delhi to San Francisco flight takes goes over Bangladesh, Myanmar, China and Japan before crossing the Pacific Ocean to enter the United States of America.
However, the new route would save around 90 minutes, making the travel time around 15.5 hours. This route would include flying over Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, the Arctic Ocean, Canada and then entering the US.
"Passengers will benefit from the reduced fuel consumption and a better environment from the reduced carbon emissions," Air India Western Region director Mukesh Bhatia.
According to AI, the fuel saving on the Polar route is expected to be in the region of 2 to 7 tonnes with a resultant decrease in carbon emission of 6 to 21 tonnes per flight, and is part of the initiative of the Fuel Conservation Committee of the airline.
Increasing use of the polar route has resulted in major improvements in communications, air traffic control, and services supplies at remote airports. However, most of the Polar region still falls short of the infrastructure and the logistics standards of the more widely used air-spaces, thereby offering unique opportunities laced with distinct challenges, Bhatia explained.
"For instance, the area of magnetic unreliability, limited choices for diversion to alternative airports, solar radiation, fuel freezing, passenger and aircraft retrieval in case of diversions, are some specific factors requiring active mitigation to ensure equivalent levels of safety," Bhatia added.
In case of diversion of a flight on the Polar region, the AI has hired a Diversion Support Agency to assist in the aircraft and passenger retrieval.
Air India has secured approvals from the DGCA and FAA, crew training, weather monitoring, alternate selection and aircraft serviceability are enhanced to ensure safety in operations.
Polar flights have been in operation since 1937, when a Soviet pilot Valery Chkalov became the first to fly a single-engine aircraft from Moscow to Vancouver over the North Pole covering the 8,811 kms distance in 63 hours.