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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Boeing Dreamliner back on air - that spells good for Air India

Once a royal figure, not all is well with the ‘Maharaja’ – Air India, the flag carrier airline of India is not in great pink.  The dream plane literally, Boeing Dreamliner was expected to change its fortune; Dreamliner was expected to become the mainstay of AI’s global operations and was being touted as key to its turnaround plan. For AI, the plane had been configured to have 256 seats — 18 full-flat business class seats and 238 in economy.  Trouble brewed on air as dreamliners were grounded globally in Jan 2013; now Addis Ababa could spell some hope……..

Addis Ababa  meaning “new flower”; is the capital city of Ethiopia. It is the largest city in Ethiopia, it is a City and a State. It is where the African Union and its predecessor the OAU are based. It also hosts the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and numerous other continental and international organizations. Addis Ababa is therefore often referred to as "the political capital of Africa" due to its historical, diplomatic and political significance for the continent.

Lithium-ion batteries are incredibly popular these days. They are used in laptops, PDAs, cell phones and iPods. Each 787 has two of the lithium-ion batteries.  The Dreamliner entered service in 2011. Half of the plane is made from lightweight composite materials, making it more fuel efficient than other planes of the same size. The two lithium-ion batteries are not used when the 787 is in flight. Instead they are operational when the plane is on the ground and its engines are not turned on, and are used to power the aircraft's brakes and lights. The lithium-ion batteries used in Boeing's 787 Dreamliner are central to the design of a plane which is billed as being lighter and 20% more fuel efficient than earlier generations of jet. All planes have batteries, but the Dreamliner needs especially powerful ones because its control systems are driven entirely by electrical signals in place of the hydraulic controls seen on earlier generations of jet.

Due to energy being rechargeable, they are commonly used. Once the battery reaches a certain temperature, it can start self-heating with potentially disastrous results; they could go up in flames occasionally. It is this trait that jeopardized the Boeing 787 dreamliners. The battery faults raised fears of a possible mid-air fire, drawing worldwide attention to Boeing and denting the reputation of its flagship plane.  The grounding of the Dreamliner fleet of around 50 planes, cost Boeing an estimated $600 million, halted deliveries of the aircraft and forced some airlines to lease alternative planes. Headquartered in Chicago, Boeing employs more than 170,000 people across the United States and in 70 countries.

There is hope in the horizon as Ethiopian Airlines on Saturday [27th April 2013] became the world's first carrier to resume flying Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner passenger jets, landing the first commercial flight since the global fleet was grounded three months ago following incidents of overheating in the batteries providing auxiliary power. The flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi was the first since regulators grounded all Dreamliners on January 16 after two lithium-ion battery meltdowns that occurred on two jets with other airlines within two weeks that month. U.S. regulators approved a new battery design last week, clearing the way for installation and a resumption of Dreamliner flights by airlines around the world.

Air India has 6; All Nippon airways (Japan) has 17; Ethiopian Airlines 4; Japan Airlines 7; Chile has 3; United Airlines has 6…. All dream liners.  The grounding of Dreamliner apart from the safety concerns, meant bad news for the loss-laden AirIndia, which had pinned its hopes on returning to profitability by making intelligent use of the Dreamliners instead of fuel guzzling 777s.    Firstpost had reported that the  losses Air India is incurring due to grounding of its Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’ fleet have risen to as much as Rs 20 crore a week ~ the daily loss had climbed to over Rs 2.86 crore a day!

That and the news of dreamliner flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi should be good news for the ailing Maharaja….  Officially, the battery problem has been set right.  US Federal officials have accepted Boeing's revamped battery system for its beleaguered 787 Dreamliners and intend to lift a three-month-old order grounding the planes, Boeing said in a statement in Washington.  "A team of engineers from Boeing is being flown into India and they are likely to start work to reset the new batteries on the six Dreamliners of Air India," DGCA chief Arun Mishra told PTI.  Air India has already received the new battery kit, though the revamped batteries are yet to arrive, senior Air India officials told PTI.  "It will take almost a week to install these batteries on each of these aircraft. We start flying only after we get at least two of these aircraft operational," Air India officials said.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
29th April 2013.


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