Air India stands by its Boeing 787 Dreamliners as Japan grounds almost 50% of the global fleet

by Devesh Agarwal

National carrier Air India has stood by the six Boeing 787 Dreamliners in its fleet, even as safety concerns grounded the 787 fleet at the first two operators of the aircraft, both from Japan, All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL). Between the two of them, ANA and JAL operate almost 50% of the global 787 fleet, 24 of the 50 delivered till date. 

Early yesterday, an ANA Boeing 787-8 performing a domestic flight NH 692 from Ube to Tokyo Haneda was forced to make an emergency diversion to Takamatsu when there were indications of battery problems and a burning smell developed on board.

This incident is only the latest in a series of problems to affect the new generation airliner. Many of the problems that plague the Dreamliner seem to be electrical in nature and are affecting airline operators across the world. A United Airlines Boeing 787-8 was diverted near New Orleans on December 4, 2012. On December 8, a Qatar Airways 787 reported a generator failure. On January 7, a Japan Airlines 787 suffered an APU battery fire at Boston. On January 11, another ANA Dreamliner suffered a cracked wind-shield while on a domestic flight.

Air India’s debut flight to Bangalore was marred by snags in the air conditioning system.

Japan Airlines the first operator of the 787 with GEnx engines, the same as Air India issued a statement

“In view of the incident encountered by another airline involving the 787-8 aircraft today, Japan Airlines has decided to cancel the operations of its 787-8 aircraft scheduled for flights today and tomorrow, January 17, 2013, to ensure complete safety.” “Operations of JAL’s 787-8 aircraft from January 18, 2013 will be decided after further assessment of the situation with the investigations.”

The United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has already launched an investigation in to the Boston incident, and now the Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) has launched an investigation in to flight NH692.

The spate of incidents surrounding Boeing’s newest aircraft has prompted the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct a review in to the design, manufacturing, and quality control and assurance processes at Boeing.

A spokesperson for Air India re-affirmed the airline’s faith in the aircraft and confirmed the airline was in touch with the airframer, Boeing, and in close contact with India’s aviation regulator the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The airline will follow the guidelines prescribed by the regulator.

The DGCA has decided to take a wait and watch approach to the situation. It awaits reports and findings from the United States agencies, NTSB and FAA.

In news reports, Mr. Mihir Mishra, the DGCA, points out that globally no regulator has grounded the aircraft. The decision to ground 787s, has been taken by individual airlines.

While we respect the views of Mr. Mishra, and also have faith in Boeing and its products, we do point out, airlines are in the business of making a profit, and no airline will take the decision to ground their latest state of the art aircraft lightly.

It costs them tremendously. Whether it is loss of income by cancelled flights, costs incurred to accommodate the thousands of passengers whose travel is disrupted, costs incurred to inspect their fleet, and the incalculable losses should their passengers start doubting their Dreamliners and shun the aircraft.

Share your thoughts via a comment.

A special hat tip to Simon Hradecky at Aviation Herald for the incident reports.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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