National carrier Air India is set to operate its AI 173 New Delhi-San Francisco route over the North Pole to reduce flight times and fuel costs.
The flight is set to use the polar route from August 15 onwards. AI 173’s current flight path after taking off from the capital is over Bangladesh, Myanmar, China and Japan, before crossing the Pacific Ocean to reach the United States. The new route will fly north, arching upwards over Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, the Arctic Ocean and Canada before entering the US.
The revised route measures 8,000 km as compared to the previous route of 12,000 km and will take 15.5 to 16 hours to complete, depending on weather and wind conditions. Fuel savings are expected to be in the region of 2,000-7,000 kg range on these routes with the resultant decrease in carbon emissions of 6,000 -21,000 kg, per flight.
The route will be operated by a Boeing 777-200LR aircraft that will have 4 pilots and 12 cabin crew members on board who underwent special training for emergency situations. Many aircraft on polar routes fly on lower altitudes than usual to prevent fuel from reaching freezing point (-45°C).
A statement from the airline said, “The route brings up challenges such as area of Magnetic Unreliability, limited choice for diversion to alternate airports, solar radiation, passenger and aircraft retrieval and require active mitigation to ensure equivalent levels of safety. Sufficient documentation exists to provide clear guidelines for this purpose.”