With the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approving Boeing’s revamped battery system for the new generation B-787 Dreamliners, Air India is hopeful that these six state-of-the-art aircraft could take to the skies by middle of next month.
Civil Aviation Ministry officials said a high powered 20-member technical team of Boeing will be reaching India on Sunday and they would immediately get down to the job and start work on revamping of batteries in the six B-787s from Monday. “If all goes according to the plan, the Dreamliners could be back in operation by middle of next month after FAA grants approval for their air worthiness with the new revamped battery system,’’ the official remarked.
Apart from the Boeing technical team, engineers of Air India and the technical team of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) will work round the clock to fix the issue and sort out the issue by early next month. The six Dreamliners were grounded on January 17 this year after a series of incidents involving the batter system. This has badly hit the turnaround plan of Air India which was relying heavily on deployment of these long haul aircraft to revive its fortunes. DGCA sources said if the technical checks and test flights are found to be in order, the DGCA would wait for a word from FAA and then if all goes well, would revoke its order of grounding these planes.
The FAA approved the new battery design made by the Japanese battery manufacturer
and Boeing. Following the battery fire incidents, the entire global fleet of 50 Boeing-787s, owned by eight airlines, including Air India, was grounded. The Boeing team will help in installation of new battery kits. “We are hopeful of getting back into the skies after all approvals come through by the middle of next year. If all goes well, the Paris and Frankfurt international flights could be the first ones to take off by May end,’’ an Air India official said DGCA official said.
Air India has been planning to expand its global presence with the Dreamliner and had drawn up plans for flights to Rome, Moscow, Beijing and Melbourne or Sydney in Australia. Before the six planes were grounded, Air India used these B-787s for flights from Delhi to Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata on domestic routes, apart from Paris, Frankfurt and Dubai. Air India has been loosing an estimated around Rs. 20 crore per week due to the grounding of the six Dreamliners.
In a statement from Everett in US, Boeing chief Jim McNerney said FAA approval clears the way for us and the airlines to begin the process of returning the 787 to flight with continued confidence in the safety and reliability of this game-changing new airplane. Boeing has deployed teams to locations around the world to begin installing improved battery systems on 787s. Kits with the parts needed for the new battery systems and the new batteries were being shipped to locations across the globe, including Mumbai. ``Airplanes will be modified in approximately the order they were delivered. FAA lifting the grounding order gives Boeing the go-ahead to begin retrofitting planes with an enhanced lithium ion battery system,’’ the statement said.