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Exclusive photos: Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner VT-ANI being retro-fitted for reliabilty – Bangalore Aviation
Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner VT-ANI sits forlorn with its radome removed.
Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner VT-ANI sits forlorn with its radome removed.

Exclusive photos: Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner VT-ANI being retro-fitted for reliabilty

Update: Oct. 14, 2014. 21:00 IST

An Air India spokesperson sent us an e-mail and said “Aircraft VT-ANI is currently undergoing reliability improvement retrofit (modification) and will resume operations in November.”

This is nice to hear.

Can someone with subject matter expertise please explain what is the retro-fit being done? Why is this specific to only this aircraft? Why does this retrofit need over six months?

Original story: Oct. 14, 2014. 16:30 IST

After the cannibalisation of parts of its newest Boeing 777-200LR VT-ALH Maharashtra, it appears national carrier Air India is stripping one its new Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners, VT-ANI for parts.

VT-ANI, construction number (MSN) 36277 was the 46th 787-8 Dreamliner built. It made its first flight on May 23, 2012 and delivered to Air India and ferried on October 9, 2012. The aircraft was used extensively flying to Australia, London, Frankfurt etc. Suddenly around April 22, 2014 this aircraft mysteriously disappeared from the skies. The world aviation community has been abuzz with the absence of this new aircraft from the skies.

There is little doubt the airline is having a torrid time of its ownership experience with the newest aircraft from Boeing. While the rest of the 787 operators are close to a 99% despatch reliability ratio, statements by the civil aviation ministers to India’s parliament suggest Air India is far behind, with a flight despatch reliability below 97%.

While interchanging parts between aircraft is an accepted norm in the industry, Air India appears to be the only 787 operator in the world that is resorting to this tactic of last resort.

These confidential photos from hangar four at Mumbai airport suggest something sinister is occurring at the airline. Is VT-ANI also being stripped for parts at the financially beleaguered airline just like her Boeing 777-200LR sister VT-ALH was?

We wrote to the senior management of Air India seeking their response. No reply was received. So we are assuming the worst. However, if any reader has more knowledge of the situation, a comment is requested, even anonymously.

Photos of Air India Boeing 787 Dreamliner VT-ANI

Air India VT-ANI engines removed.
Air India VT-ANI engines removed.
Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner VT-ANI.
Air India 787-8 VT-ANI. Engines removed.
Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner VT-ANI. What are these technicians working on?
Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner VT-ANI. What are these technicians working on?

A big hat-tip to gb.

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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60 comments

  1. Great reporting by your team and sources. Hope we get to the bottom of this.

  2. Air India sucks.

  3. The Only solution is to CLOSE AIR INDIA- because no other airline will buy it.

  4. I thought they had a support contract with Boeing? I understand switching a part or two between aircraft to keep the operation moving, but this is going overboard. Someone in the materials department did not do their job…

  5. What a huge mountain made out of a tiny molehill.

    Air India is having a “torrid time”. Why? ….. because their 787 despatch reliability ratio is possibly 97% compared to the average of 99%. The latter figure seems bogus, but there’s hardly an earth-shattering difference between the two figures.

    “Interchanging parts between aircraft is an accepted norm in the industry” but Air India appears to be the only 787 operator doing it. Really? Where does his evidence come from?

  6. One thing comes to mind…….. It could of suffered heavy structual damage on landing

    • Doubtful. The under-carriage looks stable.

      • AI has sold and leased back 7 of the model and shows VT-ANI as “stored” – Might be for parts as they have received millions of dollars from Boeing in compensation due to delivery and mechanical issues from the initial order

        • As per media reports, Boeing has offered Air India a total compensation of around $24 million for all the issues. Seems a little too small by me.

          • Yes – The $24 million is for the recent losses due to downtime of service – The other compensation that has not been made public is for the “overweight” issue that the early 787s came with that were delivered to ANA as well as AI

          • That would be an interesting thing to see. When I asked Mr. Nandan on what were the trends in the performance gap he refused to answer. Instead said the airline has appointed a joint committee with Boeing to examine the issue.

  7. This is a C check. Everything is removed (seats, over head lockers, engines etc) to look for fatigue cracks etc. It is standard to do every so many flight hours. No problems here!

    • A C check within six months of operations? Isn’t that a little too soon?

      • No, the airplane is much older than that. You have to look at initial production (not delivery date) for this one. Alex is correct. It’s taking a little longer than it should, but I imagine that AI doesn’t have all the equipment to do their own C check.

        • But with a C Check you take the engine pylons down as well which are still on the aircraft. Also they raise the aircraft to check the Landing gear with its still sitting on its gear. And also they normally open all the doors and leave them open during the c check because they have to check the emergency slides as well. Hmm well lets see doors not open, aircraft still resting on landing gear, engine pylons still on the aircraft. Makes is seem strange that its a C check. Sounds like something else is going on here.

          • All 787’s are undergoing reliability modifications, especially the earlier aircraft. British Airways and
            LAN are sending a/c to Victorville in California. It’s too soon for a C
            check, I beleive it’s every 3 years for a 787 but pylon removal would not be required.

        • As per global airline data-bases, the frame was made around six months prior to delivery.

    • Hardly – not with a plane with so few cycles, which I presume, given the short time since delivery.

    • This isnt a C check…D check maybe but even then its taking alot longer than it should..and Boeing has already told AI it would help with any retrofitting needed back in Seattle..its interesting since engines are removed…why remove a good working engine

  8. As we said, in absence of any statement of AI, we are assuming the worst, based on past history. AI has now given a clarification, but it raises more questions than it answers.

    • What was the clarification given from AI?

    • Why is it such a surprise? Early build quality of B787 is bad, particularly from CHS. Probably every component and software are on version 3 now. This was taken out of service after DGCA warned Boeing any flight safety issues will result in grounding entire fleet. May be Boeing advised AI to park until it is brought up to code rather than risking fleet grounding which will put a hold on new deliveries.

      Keep in mind no airline and/or VIPs don’t want to touch planes built around same period, even those built at PAE. They are decorating RWY 11-29.

  9. Anyhow..it is bad news..Hope the New Modi Government puts Air India in place.

  10. With too many questions already to answers, this issue could be another headache to Air India. I hope they have this big bird flying soon after “retro-fitting’ (not sure what they are actually modifying, surely not the interiors). Unless Air India puts these dreamliner’s into work, it’s going to hurt them a lot.

  11. Is this the same plane that lost its mid-body fairing in flight (12Oct13)? Ah no, that was VT-ANK.

    And we can still wonder why the nose cone and weather radar is removed on VT-ANI. Was that unreliable? The engines too?

  12. I hope the whole airline will go down into toilet. And management with it too.

  13. I used Air India several times between JFK and LHR back in the 70’s. Generally, their First Class was excellent, and one trip in tourist was acceptable. Since then, it appears that heavy-handed government control has driven the carrier headlong into a death spiral. I hope that their condition will change for the better.

  14. If what AI says it is true maybe some maintenance has to be done…. Not that Air India is even a good airline.

  15. Research for aerospace industry (or industries) in countries still developing their own?

  16. AI’s 787 purchase was the worst decision it ever made – financially reckless and totally premature before the aircraft even proved itself.

    Now I hear AI is trying to “sell” its 787s off or lease them or some such.

    The Indian tax payer was robbed and Boeing made more than a buck.

    • This was a part of “Obama buttering” (add the C130s) , during his earlier visits. US was annoyed/concerned that all money from India was flowing into EU . Remember earlier story about Airbus deals – during Francois Mitterand’s visits

  17. Please keep us up to speed on this Devesh. this is a fairly remarkable situation, as plane DO NOT make money on the ground and this has been out of service since APRIL!
    Even if upgrades / mods were to be performed, NONE take a plane out of service 6 months!

  18. As I can see it is quite simple. If the airline is cannibalizing the plane, then it is for parts due lack of funds to procure parts. Then again C Checks are not due for at least another two years, so why cannibalize?
    If the problem is money, it is because they are not earning enough money. The airline international flights earn just 25% from foreign countries and 75% from India. More and more traffic rights are being given to foreign airlines, like 50,000 seats per week to Etihad. All these airlines are cleaning up the Indian market. Thus Air India is losing its market share from India specially to airlines from Gulf countries. Unfortunately as i see the marketing people do not seem to have a solution. Someone said that currently international flights have only about 60% seat factor. To be successful you must have at least 78 to 80% seat factor. So you need marketing dynamics for that.
    Also note that Pilot salaries are going to be pruned down. This is not the way forward for Air India. This is called reactive management and not proactive management.

  19. I know this comment might be irrelevant to the article but……Everyone should stop criticising Air India. I know they have their issues, but in saying that so do most airlines all over the world even bigger ones such as Qantas. I have been flying with Air India since the 90’s and have no issues what so ever from flights to JFK, SYD, SIN and more I have trusted Air India. I think as Indians we should not slam the airlines name and talk down about the airline, because in a way it is slamming our nation and our people, and that’s not cool. So just chill, and support our national carrier, I think a reason for the airlines bad brand name is because if it’s own people critisizing it non-stop. And the airline really is trying to change its ways and I have noticed that since the previous years it feels like a new airline from the ground up service has really improved and so have the aircraft. For a fact I have also noticed that Air India has some of the most spacious Economy Class seats (especially when compared to Emirates and Jet Airways 77W in a 3-4-3 configuration) and I do a lot of flying so it really makes a difference in a long haul flight. Although I do agree that they should improve ways on how to be profitable airline. 🙂 Anyway that was just my opinion.

  20. Indian PM does not use 777. He flies in a 747-400.

  21. Yes, we accept even critical comments. Though I am laughing at the word “discredited”. By whom? The over 50,000 visitors who have read this story?

  22. Not get stuck with a broken 787 halfway around the world? If only there were someone halfway around the world who could work on a 787. Like…Boeing?

  23. First blush reaction: Its a reverse engineering opportunity like no other. There’s something else going on…

  24. Any update on this aircraft or any new pictures? As per the AI spokesperson in your update that the aircraft will be back in business in Nov. Well its almost mid of Nov & hoping that the so called retrofit is almost complete. Such a waste that a modern aircraft is out of service for such a long time.

  25. What about old fashion reverse engineering through inspection of parts and assemblies? AI – may be a government enterprise but there has to be a real reason to disassemble at new aircraft. If an aircraft had that many problems Boeing would be there! There is more than meets the AI description.

  26. MORE PROOF: A BRAND NEW, SHINY, STATE OF THE ART AIRCRAFT IN THE HANDS OF A THIRD WORLD AIRLINE , A SAFE FLIGHT DOES NOT MAKE.

  27. AI this month already canceled 7 of pending orders for 787. Total orders were for 27, 20 have been delivered & remaining 7 canceled. This clearly shows that the performance of B787 is very poor. Just google Boeing 787 Al Jazeera, and you will see the report & documentary which shows how B787 is very unsafe to fly in.

    Btw, AI is now selling all 3 777-200, while 2 B777-300ER will be converted into AI One/AI VIP. This will replace the aging B747 which our PM uses & money will be saved on purchase of new aircraft also since most 777, 787 have less seat occupancy than 80%.

+OK