Exclusive picture: Air India Dreamliner grounded for 9 months, finally restored

It appears that Air India’s troublesome Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner VT-ANI has finally completed its repairs and retrofits and is getting ready for flight. From a supporter of Bangalore Aviation comes this photo taken at Mumbai airport on India’s Republic Day, January 26, 2015. A hat-tip to the boss.

Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner VT-ANI LN46 at Mumbai airport after being grounded for nine months for a "reliability retrofit".
Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner VT-ANI LN46 at Mumbai airport after being grounded for nine months for a “reliability retrofit”.

Readers will recall, since April 2014, nine months ago, Air India’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner VT-ANI was grounded for what the airline termed “reliability improvement retrofit (modification)”. We reported this with exclusive pictures.

VT-ANI was the 46th Dreamliner built, and the first to be built outside the venerable Everett factory. It achieved first flight on May 23, 2012, but was delivered to Air India only in early October 2012 at a glittering ceremony.

A nine month retrofit?

Early build Dreamliners have been troublesome aircraft for their operators, and Boeing has been scrambling to fix the problems. VT-ANI was the first aircraft built on the Charleston, South Carolina assembly line, and understandably it would have its problems. Yet, a nine month long retrofit?

Three months on, we still have not received a response from the airline seeking a clarification that what type of retrofit is this, that has taken nine months? A Boeing India spokesperson declined to respond to an e-mail and SMS sent enquiring on the type of retrofit and why did it take so long.

We estimate a Dreamliner would lease out at about $600,000 to $750,000 per month, apart from the lost income. Is Air India going to recover the cost of the grounding from Boeing?

In any case, we are glad that the bird is back and should see active service soon.

Incidentally, VT-ANI was the aircraft we flew when we did our in-flight review of Air India’s Dreamliner.

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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32 comments

  1. if i am not wrong, airlines do assess the performance and fitness of a aircraft before the delivery as per the specifications. How did they a accept the plane??

  2. I am sure that this retrofit is transparent to Indian regulators DGCA +FAA. Does AI get any compensation? We don’t hear much Dreamliner stories from QR/ other operators. Is AI the guinea pig ?

  3. Did anyone see the investigation documentary by Al Jazeera News Channel on the quality of 787’s being built at Charleston, South Carolina?It’s Scary!

    I wouldn’t fly on one of these.

    • You mean the ambush journalism piece? They’ve recycled so much material from the past and they tried to pass it off as news. Even Dominic Gates and a number of critics chalked it up as a bunch of nothing. Currently there are 50 787’s not counting VT-ANI in flying circulation assembled from Charleston out of 232 planes. Charleston also manufactures ALL of the aft-bodies and assembles ALL of the mid-bodies. So you better not fly on an Everett assembled jet as well? Heck, you better not fly on a 737 MAX or 777-X when they are EIS because they’re getting parts manufactured in South Carolina.

      • Boeing should stop selling lemons and blame customers if it wants to be successful in India. Forget about AI, do you think Indigo or Vistara will consider Dreamliner as a widebody option. Probably never. Boeing messed up big time in India.

        • Please do tell which of the last 232 planes have been sent back and replaced with a new airplane? I’ll even provide you with a handy list. nyc787 blogspot com This list is maintained by an Indian, Uresh Sheth. Feel free to contact him on his twitter feed.

          Indigo is a budget airline with an A320 fleet which I doubt they’re even considering widebodies. Same with Vistara. They both are leasing their aircrafts from BOC Aviation & Tigerair and because of that it really makes me doubt they have the flexibility to maintain widebodies.

          If Boeing messed up big time in India, why is Air India still taking deliveries instead of cancelling the orders for their remaining widebodies? Also, since Air India is government owned, it’s a piggy bank for corrupt politicians to get their fingers in the till for their retirement fund. As long Air India keeps their orders on the book, Boeing will keep delivering.

          • For whatever quid-pro-quo reason India ordered these planes and AI keeping its promise, it is Boeing responsibility to deliver quality product.

            I don’t need a list of some Indian aviation enthusiast. You can answer these question.

            Who took all early builds originally ordered? AI took them all.

            12 obese birds.
            2 wing rework
            Multiple windshield cracks
            Multiple spoiler issues
            Multiple flaperon issues
            First contained engine failure.
            First hydraulic rupture and structural damage (ANC)
            First oven fire
            First RAT disintegration (ANI)
            Only one with both engines with faulty valves
            One with bad engine during pre-delivery inspection
            All with … batteries in a box

            When Boeing gives so much attention to QR’s carpet, it should care more about mechanical quality of AI builds.

            Otherwise India will be 100% Airbus country. BTW, if and when they need both Indigo and Vistara will order A332s or A350s.

          • Looks like you’ve been keeping a list?
            12 obese birds? Please do name the airframes. You apparently are keeping count.
            2 wing reworks? Again which airframes.
            Software issues? That would be Rockwell Collins. They’re the vendor for providing the software.
            Windshields – Hello! Windshields crack all the time on ALL planes out there. A320’s, A330’s, A340’s, 737’s, 747’s, 757’s, 767’s, 777’s, Bombardier, etc. It is not a new phenomena. Mountain out of a molehill. They get a new windshield, replace the cracked windshield, tape it up with speed tape to shield curing process, and it’s ready to go. Google speed tape.
            Spoiler and flaperon? Resolved
            RAT disintegration? Appears to be fiction. When was the incident in question? The RAT isn’t supposed to deploy at all unless in an emergency situation when the airplane loses power. So if someone deployed the RAT in a non-emergency situation ie MX cutting power to the aircraft while a vehicle is underneath, then yes, that’s a big issue.
            FMC – not a safety issue.
            Engines – That’s the fault of the engine manufacturers, completely out of Boeing’s control.
            As for the Lithium-Ion batteries. The battery issue has been resolved and there has been no incident since early 2013. The media is waiting to jump on the next battery incident and haven’t seen any since then. The battery being put into a steel box with multiple safety features is actually a good idea.
            Now.. Dispatch reliability is over 99% and increasing. No airplane is without issues.
            As for your airlines in question. There is no possibility they will order widebodies. After all, they are budget airlines. It’s as likely as Southwest going widebodies. Vistara is brand new and had to lease their aircrafts. You’re forgetting Emirates which is becoming a significant airline in India and they operate both the popular 77W’s and the A380.

          • I agree with many parts Karadion, but software glitches and FMC not a safety issue ?!?!?! Sorry that I cannot digest. The diversion of the Australia to India flight to Kuala Lumpur due to triple failure of the FMC on an all electronic jet is a HUGE issue.

            Somehow Air India seems to have a pathetic 97% despatch reliability. Now is this due to a poor aircraft (initial builds), poor maintenance or some other reason, or a combination, is not known. But AI and Norwegian are two airlines facing a torrid time with the Dreamliners.

          • QR- has this habit. Airbus/Boeing are really scared of any glitches with QR. With AI- Take it easy. Chalta Hai. I agree that our media adds a lot of masala- especially on aviation incidents. I rewind my memories during the A320 launch days, including the BLR incident. Airbus was completely gone case! Then comes the Kuwait war – and Lo & behold the A320 did hundreds of evacuation flights and then the 320 was the best plane ever built!
            Boeing, Iam sure is not sitting quiet, but AI guys also need to put fire under their seats!

          • Devesh, based on what I’ve read in the past, the issues that Air India brought up was glossed over as not a safety issue. If you know more than I do, I won’t doubt that. I haven’t seen an incident lately regarding either. Rockwell Collins I’m sure have been fixing their issue as they are the primary vendor for a lot of flight computers across multiple different types / aircrafts.

          • All I can say is that the triple FMC shut down scared the living daylights out of many people including Boeing. A lot of midnight candles were burnt. ūüėČ

          • Do you use the BLRAviation twitter by the way? Or are you @BLRAV ?

          • I use BLRAviation more. BLRAv is sort of my personal account.

          • I want to DM you something via Twitter because of something I noticed. I figure you could look into it?

          • So if Boeing uses all excuses, what is left for customers.

            AI didn’t buy an experimental plane or a kit plane it has put together. I bet I can get better support from a RC hobby shop than what AI getting from Boeing.

            BTT, All AI planes are still under warranty, if parts fail, Boeing/vendors should ship replacement to AI in no time. Why AI cannibalizing ANI to keep others flying. Even if they go to component service, they should be returned quickly. What is Boeing’s excuse for that?

            Bottom line, customers like QR who squeeze Boeing’s privates get better service, others won’t. Very bad practice. There is no other way to spin this.

          • “AI didn’t buy an experimental plane” Correct, VT-ANI according to NYC787 Blogspot com is LN46 which is not a “Terrible teens” 787 which those specific planes are out of spec.

            “All AI planes are still under warranty” Correct anywhere from 2-5 years. It depends on the contract that Air India signed with Boeing.
            “if parts fail” If they fail within the specifications. Out of specifications, the customer has to pay. Fuel contamination for example. The rest is dependent on the MX people Air India works with unless they specifically get GoldCare which Air India doesn’t. Again all Airliners net information.

            “Why AI cannibalizing ANI to keep others flying.” You mean just like they cannibalize VT-ALH, a plane delivered in 2009, to keep other 77W’s flying? Devesh can back me up on this. He even wrote the article! This isn’t a new phenomena to Air India. Why the lessor for Air India is allowing this is beyond me.

            “What is Boeing’s excuse for that?” You tell me! I think you’re trying to write up some story here to try and portray Boeing as the evil bad guy when it seems that out of all the 787 customers in the world, Air India is the one that has all the problems? ANA has more 787’s than Air India does and yet they keep their fleet running constantly.

            “get better service, others won’t.” Maybe it’s because they pay for Goldcare that Air India doesn’t? Yes, Air India is NOT a Goldcare customer. Simple google searches can support me on this.

            -Not a Boeing sponsored disqus post. Don’t confuse me with Boeing. Go read airliners net. You’ll find all this stuff easily.

          • This site also shows AI has too many spare wide-bodies. It has no need to pull parts from one to keep others flying. When ANL engine shutdown, it diverted two B788s plus sent a spare B788 to pick up pax.

            You are mistakenly applying a poor mans logic here. When you have spare planes, why look for parts.

            AI has no purpose for B77Ls, It will cause more damage if engines are on wing and left in open, India is not Arizona, it is a semi-arid tropical region with a long monsoon season. I hope it found a buyer for B77Ls, otherwise it has to remove engines again for safe keeping.

            This is Boeing-AI warranty text.

            Boeing warrants that, at the time of delivery all Boeing products will be free from defects in materials, process of manufacture and workmanship, including the workmanship utilized to install suppliers products, engines, etc. The agreement also warrants that all Boeing products will be free from defects in design, including selection of materials and process of manufacture in view of the state of the art at the time of design. In case of B787 aircraft such warranty is applicable for a period of 48 months after delivery.
            As per Clause 7.3 of the Warranty, Boeing will reimburse Customer’s reasonable costs of Direct Materials and Direct Labor by credit memorandum (excluding labor hours expended for overhaul) at Customer’s Warranty Labor Rate to correct defective Boeing products.
            As per clause 7.3.5, Boeing will reimburse Customer‚Äôs freight charges associated with a Correction of a defect on a Boeing product performed by its Authorized Agent or a third party contractor‚ÄĚ.

            AIESL is the largest MRO in Asia. 6 MRO facilities and 64 line maintenance stations. No other MRO provider has acquired capabilities like AI did. Educate yourself and stay away from teenager sites for your information.

          • FYI ALH is not a 77L. It’s a 77W. Since I have a life, educate yourself before mixing a plane with another model that it doesn’t belong to.

          • Actually AI GEnx engines are performing relatively better than other GEnx B788s. Credit goes to GE OnPoint and GE overhaul at BOM. 01/22/15 ANL was the first IFSD for AI B788s. 01/19/15 ANH at DEL seems to be a bird strike.

            Unlike Boeing, GE is doing a very good job in India. Read CAPA’s analysis about Boeing CA future sales in India. In a decade or two I bet even ATR and EMB will have more planes in India than Boeing.

            Lessors asking SpiceJet to return 11 of 15 B737s. May be good candidate for A320s. It can have a fresh start. Airbus brings luck.

            9W’s main focus is feeding AUH. 23 x A320s will do the job with mx base at AUH. EY is a Airbus NB customer. I see lot of synergies in switching to A320.

            Ask QR CEO (or) EY CEO, who would they trust working on their planes. AIESL (or) BoeingSC. Your will be surprised.

            Boeing India head has to cut down on snacks and Chai and work hard to improve the situation. Otherwise Boeing CA has no future in India.

            Even with all these reports banks are ready to lend money to AI. Its going to take 5xA320CEOs and 5-8 ATR72-600s.

          • VT-ANI was the first Dreamliner built at SC, and is acknowledged even by Boeing to have issues. Which is why the “reliability and performance retrofit” :).

            Having said that, there is definitely something not connecting properly with Air India – Boeing / vendors and the 787. Worldwide the despatch reliability is 99% but at AI it is 97%. Both you and Frank are correct both Boeing and AI are contributing to the problem. It takes two hands to clap.

          • VT-ALH is a B77L not W. What I use the word cannibalising is to take and transplant parts from one working aircraft to another. This is a common practice in the airline industry and there is nothing wrong with it. I criticised Air India’s actions via the article on VT-ALH on the way they left the aircraft out in the open sort of like a rotting carcass which is not correct for the newest of the variant in your fleet.

          • Unfortunately the word cannibalized is used loosely in India. Its actually hurting Indian aviation.

            Not even one leased aircraft was cannibalized/scrapped in last decade, yet media gives impression every leased aircraft to India never makes out of country in one piece.

            All Kingfisher leased aircraft were returned to lessors. Even with all its troubles, SpiceJet is returning as soon as they don’t need.

            Lessors are charging more to Indian carriers to mitigate risk, yet they are asking even active, current on payment planes back. This is a scam sowed by media and reaped by lessors. Carriers like SpiceJet are victims.

            Here in US we have hangar space for every RV and every convict on the loose. Third world countries have limited hanger space, they have to leave plane out in open.

            B777 designed and built to be rust proof. An active EK B77W with doors open for 5-8 hours daily at DXB for ops/mx absorbs more moister than a doors closed AI B77W left out for months at BOM.

          • BTW Karadion, is this new Boeing’s PR strategy, unleash employees against customers on social media (or) you are proving AJ’s allegations. Hope your social media activity is in accordance to official policy and vetted by Boeing Legal/HR.

          • I’m sorry what? Who is AJ? My social activity which Surprise! isn’t dictated by anyone! I get all my information from airliners net.

            Go cry me a river.

          • If you are a BoeingSC employee, your social media activity is dictated by your employment, even if your comments are personal. No wonder Boeing CA has no scope in projected #3 market.

          • No, it’s not. If the information was proprietary which I’m not you may have a point. But since it’s all from airliners net, aviation websites, etc including this very own website, then it’s free information. *gasp* what a magical thing the internet is. The amount of information you can get out there. For example the information about the 787’s, you can get from Uresh Sheth, Jon Ostrower, Dominic Gates, Karel Souffriau, and the list goes on. Did you know there’s a dedicated thread called “787 Production/Delivery Thread” that’s up to Page 39?

    • Prem the Al Jazeera piece wasn’t very objective. It is why we did not carry it nor did we promote it either via Facebook or Twitter.

    • We are happy that a major national newspaper confirmed that these grounded birds were being used for parts in effect cannibalising. But we are also happy that Air India has restored these aircraft back to their original beauty.

  4. Incidentally my uncle just flew VT-ANR AI403 DEL BLR on Friday 30/Jan, in business class. Brand new plane delivered less than 3 months ago. Already the seat motors are not working and all kinds of other niggles. Crew decent. “Food edible but otherwise crap”. Come on @AirIndiaIn, buck up and improve.