Technical glitch grounds Air India's Dreamliners

They were supposed to be the key to changing Air India’s fortunes. However, the three Boeing 787 Dreamliners that the national carrier bought have been grounded at Delhi’s IndiraGandhi International Airport since Sunday evening owing to technical problems causing the beleaguered carrier further losses.

Top sources within the airline described the error as the Minimum Equipment List (MEL) not responding for operation clearance. Explaining the problem, a top Air India official on the condition of anonymity said, “For any aircraft to be cleared for operations, the MEL is required. The three aircraft were grounded as the MEL did not respond.”

Dream cut short: The Boeing 787 Dreamliner that was inducted into the Air India fleet on September 6 has been grounded since Sunday causing the beleaguered carrier further losses. File pic

The official added, however, that one of the aircraft was later cleared for operations on Monday afternoon but the others would remain grounded till they were able to ascertain the problem. “Till the time that we are able to establish the electronic driver error, the planes will be grounded and it may take some time to resolve the problem,” he added. Some sources told MiD DAY that a major engine-related issue with the aircraft could also be the reason behind the grounding.

Air India’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner landed on September 6 following which two others were brought in, and on September 19, the Dreamliners began their maiden flights on domestic routes. The Dreamliners haven’t been everything the carrier hoped as they have already presented problems. One of the planes had to be grounded after its front cargo door developed a snag and could not shut for the plane to get airborne.

Game changer?
The airline that ordered 27 Dreamliners at a cost of Rs 32,000 crore in 2006 had hoped that they would help the carrier’s fortune and was a much talking point. At the official induction of the 787, Union Aviation Minister Ajit Singh had said, “This is one of the finest aircraft. Hope it will bring Air India back to its Maharaja days.”

When MiD DAY contacted Rohit Nandan, CMD Air India, said he would comment on the issue after talking to the engineering department. He, however, maintained that an engineering problem in any new machine was not unusual and they were coping well.  

What is a MEL?
A list of aircraft equipment that must be in good working order before an aircraft may legally take off with passengers.

Not such a dream flight?
In July, this year, Air Nippon Airways (ANA) grounded five of its 11 new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft after a problem was identified with engines made by Rolls-Royce. The aircraft were grounded after a potential corrosion problem inside gearboxes on Rolls-Royce’s Trent 1000 engines was discovered.

By the numbers
Air India has ordered 27 Dreamliner aircraft. An additional five aircraft will be delivered by the end of this year. Seven will be delivered next year, five in 2014, six in 2015 and three in 2016. The new carriers have high-end features such as fuel efficiency, a seating capacity of 256 passengers and more leg space.

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