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Thursday, January 17, 2013

trouble on air ~ Dreamliners grounded......


It was launched with so much of brouhaha ! ~ when the first of its brand  took off from Tokyo to Hong Kong on its first commercial flight in October 2011, getting a seat was so difficult that an aviation enthusiast spent $30,000 in an auction to buy his ticket on the flight.  As of now there are reportedly a total of 50 with All Nippon Airways topping the list with 17; Air India has 6.  

They were neither  faster nor bigger than existing jumbo jets; yet they were hailed as the most revolutionary step in air passenger travel since Concorde ~ that was not just because it is effectively made of plastic, making it lighter and more fuel-efficient than other planes. Its major advance is on the inside, where it offers new levels of passenger comfort. The less than 250 seater, has obviously bigger windows, wider seats, less of aisles ~ staggering price but good customer comfort, was it was meant to be.  

The Carriers were looking to save fuel with carbon-composite jet; the enthusiasm has perhaps died down but there have been some worrying incidents in less than a fortnight.  Newspaper reports suggest that mechanical problems aboard Boeing's new Dreamliner 787 airliner seem to be happening far too often for some.  The latest trouble spot is the potential risk of battery fire; the others in the growing list of reported troubles aboard the Dreamliner include a fuel leak, an oil leak, two cracked engines, a damaged cockpit window and a battery problem. In the most serious incident so far, a battery alarm prompted an emergency landing in Japan Wednesday of an ANA 787 carrying 129 passengers.

Much has occurred later ~ U.S. and Japanese authorities have ordered airlines to stop flying their Boeing 787s until they can show they've fixed a fire risk linked to battery failures aboard the closely watched Dreamliners.  The moves by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the Japanese government follow an emergency landing in Japan that prompted that country's two major airlines to ground their fleets of 787s, and a similar problem aboard a Dreamliner on the ground in Boston nine days earlier.

There was not much trouble after the first commercial Dreamliner flight took off in October 2011, flying from Tokyo to Hong Kong; the planes flew without major problems for more than a year. But trouble started from July from whence there have been troubles reported.    In the All Nippon Airlines (ANA) 787 incident, the aircraft with 129 people aboard made an emergency landing after a battery alarm; those on board reported a burning smell in the cabin, and an alarm indicated smoke in a forward electrical compartment. Hours later, ANA and Japan Airlines announced that they were grounding their Dreamliners pending an investigation. Later Japanese government ordered that all 787s be kept out of service until battery safety could be assured.

Then on Wednesday night, Chile-based LAN Airlines said it was temporarily grounding its three Boeing 787 aircraft in compliance with the FAA's recommendation.  The Federal Aviation Administration reportedly issued an emergency order late Wednesday telling U.S. airlines to stop flying Boeing 787 Dreamliners until they can prove that batteries on board are safe.

Back home, Air India also flies Dramliners and now it is reported that AI has grounded its fleet of six Boeing 787 aircraft under orders from Indian aviation authorities.  Earlier, India’s aviation regulator DGCA was categoric that there was no need to ground the Boeing 787 Dreamliners despite several airlines around the world giving up on the faulty planes.  There reportedly had been a couple of incidents but were seen as “routine” with airline officials saying such problems occur with many new aircraft but are corrected by the manufacturer as time goes by. “Fuel leakage happened on Dreamliners but this is not uncommon. When the aircraft is being refuelled, sometimes the fuel overflows.

Apart from the safety concerns, these grounding could mean more for the loss-laden Air India, which had pinned its hopes on returning to profitability by making intelligent use of the Dreamliners instead of fuel guzzling 777s.  The Boeing Company is stated as reassuring that the company is confident that the planes are safe and is working with authorities to get them flying again.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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