New Delhi: A recent incident in which debris fell off a Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s engine during a pre-flight test in the US has led Air India to convey to the manufacturer that it would take deliveries only after the cause of the mishap was established and rectified.
This was one of the planes being readied for Air India that has ordered 27 of them, official sources said. Under the 2005 deal, the American manufacturer was to hand over the first of these state-of-the-art aircraft in September, 2008. This has been delayed by nearly four years.
The national carrier has conveyed to Boeing that it would “not take deliveries till we know the root cause of the problem, how the (787) fleet is getting affected and faults, if any, rectified,” they said.
No one was injured in the 28 July incident which set ablaze grass leading to closure of the only runway at Charleston International Airport in South Carolina for over an hour.
Following the incident, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) launched a probe after Boeing and engine manufacturer General Electric notified it that a Boeing 787 experienced an engine failure during a pre-delivery taxi test, an NTSB statement said.
According to media reports, the General Electric’s GEnx turbofan engine, destined for Air India, sparked the grass fire. The plane, fitted with the same engines, is now being operated by Japan Airlines (JAL).
The incident involved the second of three Dreamliners that have rolled off Boeing’s new assembly line in Charleston, the reports said.
It came roughly a week after another Japanese carrier, All Nippon Airways, grounded its five Rolls-Royce Trent 1000- powered Boeing 787s following the manufacturer’s discovery of corrosion within an external gearbox.
Boeing spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said the aircraft was undergoing pre-flight runway testing when the incident occurred. She said the B-787 was the latest one built at the Boeing campus in North Charleston.
However, Eslinger made it clear that production of the Dreamliners would not be affected, the reports said.
Air India would also have to wait for induction of these planes till the Union cabinet approves the compensation package the national carrier has sought from Boeing for four-year delay in delivery of the latest aircraft.
The orders for 27 Dreamliners were part of the overall order placed by Air India in 2005 for 68 Boeing aircraft. The total deal at that time was worth about $8.1 billion.
Aviation analysts say it is not uncommon for new aircraft joining international airline to face teething problems. In this context, they noted that the Airbus A-380 super-jumbo had also faced glitches soon after it was inducted into service by Singapore Airlines and Qantas.
They said the Airbus A-320, now the mainstay for several Indian carriers for domestic and short-haul international operations, had faced technical trouble soon after it was delivered to erstwhile Indian Airlines.
The entire A-320 fleet was grounded after an aircrash in Bangalore in February 1990.
“This is one of the primary reasons why most airlines are reluctant to be among the first few customers for a new aircraft made by any manufacturer due to such teething trouble,” the sources said.