Move follows US federal agency directive to DGCA pointing to battery problems

Air India has grounded its entire fleet of six Boeing 787 aircraft, more popularly called the Dreamliner.

The move for grounding the fleet began at 3 a.m. this morning when the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) received a communication from the US watchdog Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pointing to problems with the battery on the aircraft.

Following this early morning communication, the DGCA asked Air India to ground the fleet. Sources indicated that the problem is likely to be sorted out within the next three to five days and the aircraft should be back in service.

“The onus is now on Boeing to convince the FAA that the issue has been sorted out. When the FAA is convinced and they issue a directive, the aircraft will start flying again,” sources said.

Air India has ordered 27 Boeing 787 aircraft. Two of the Boeing 787 aircraft in the AI fleet were used to operate early morning flights from Delhi to Bangalore and Chennai as the instructions to ground the aircraft reached late, the sources indicated.

The aircraft were unlikely to be able to head back to Delhi as return flights from these two cities.

Air India has combined the Delhi-Frankfurt and Delhi-Paris flight to operate with a Boeing 777. The flight will operate Delhi-Frankurt-delhi. Passengers booked for Paris will be sent onwards. The airline earlier used to deploy the 787 to both Paris and Frankfurt

On Wednesday, two Japanese airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines had grounded their entire Boeing 787 fleet following an incident in that country. Following the FAA advisory, the aircraft have also been grounded in the US.

In the last few weeks, the aircraft have been involved in various incidents including an electrical fire, a brake problem and a fuel spill at different airports around the world. However, none of these incidents involved an Air India aircraft.

Newest civilian aircraft

The aircraft, which is the latest civilian aircraft in the global market, is a long-range, mid-sized wide-body aircraft twin engine jetliner developed by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Its variant seats 210-to-290 passengers. After a delay of almost three years the aircraft entered commercial service in October 2011.

Air India received its first Dreamliner in September 2012. The aircraft entered commercial service on September 19 operating a Delhi-Chennai-Delhi flight followed by a return flight between Delhi and Bangalore on the same day.

Currently ANA, JAL, Ethiopian, Qatar Airways and Air India are among some of the global airlines which have inducted this aircraft into their fleet.

Incidentally this is not the first time that Air India has grounded its entire fleet of a particular aircraft. In 1990s, the airline grounded its Airbus A-320 family fleet following a crash in Bangalore.

Boeing 787 generates about Rs 2 crore a day in revenue from operating the aircraft.

(This article was published on January 17, 2013)
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