Air India's faulty Dreamliners to be grounded in phases

With recurring technical problems of Air India’s Dreamliner fleet, which has had 136 “minor” technical problems in the past 14 months, the government has begun an exercise to ground the B-787 planes in ten-day periods for aircraft software modification. Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh disclosed this in the Lok Sabha last week.

Singh, however, ruled out compulsory grounding of the Dreamliners till all technical faults were rectified, saying that a Boeing team was currently in India to upgrade the software on the planes. “In a reliability enhancement measure, each Dreamliner aircraft has been taken in for 10-day maintenance grounding, beginning from December 1, 2013,” he said.

Singh said Air India has been in constant touch with Boeing on the issue of the fleet’s technical reliability. “Boeing technical teams have been involved in root-cause analysis and in evolving remedial measures,” he said.

Accordingly, he said a reliability enhancement modification package, consisting of upgrades to aircraft software and components, has been prepared. A Boeing team has arrived in India to check the Air India facility in Mumbai to undertake these modifications.
On the issue of a panel falling out of the belly of a Dreamliner as it landed in Bangalore, Singh said the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was probing the incident and its report is awaited.

On the overseas battery-fire incident this January, involving the same aircraft operated by a Japanese carrier and consequential grounding of Dreamliners worldwide, he said requisite rectification was carried out on the battery units of Air India aircraft, following which the planes were put back in service in May. Air India on November 6 flew in its tenth Dreamliner from Seattle. The national carrier has placed orders for 27 Dreamliners. Even Air India’s inaugural Dreamliner flight on September 18 last year was riddled with “minor” problems in the plane’s air conditioning.

Due to the grounding of Dreamliners earlier this year, Air India had incurred additional direct or indirect expenditure of Rs 60 lakh per day, due to substitution of other aircraft on its route and an extra cost of Rs 1.43 crore per day, for aircraft financing and pilot maintenance.

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