Air India, which grounded six Boeing-made 787 Dreamliners on January 16 after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) directive to suspend all flights of the aircraft pending completion of a safety review related to battery malfunctions, is hopeful that things will settle down by April and the aircraft would take wings once again.
“Air India engineers are of the view that the Dreamliner should be back in air sometime in April,’’ Air India chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan said.
The airline ordered a total of 27 Dreamliners in January 2006 and the six were delivered, though several years behind schedule. The cash-strapped airline was scheduled to get delivery of Dreamliners in January and February, but deliveries have been held back by Boeing in view of the air safety issues.
Air India had weaved revival of its fortunes by acquiring the fuel-efficient Dreamliners and launching some lucrative international routes. It was operating the Dreamliners to Paris, Frankfurt and Dubai, as well as on three domestic routes. It had planned to launch Dreamliner service on the Delhi-Sydney and Delhi- Melbourne routes this summer.
However, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made it clear that it is looking at zero tolerance on air safety and worthiness of the aircraft. In a statement, it said it was reviewing a Boeing proposal to fix the battery problems but the aircraft would stay grounded worldwide until a safe solution was determined.
“We are reviewing the Boeing proposal and will analyse it closely,’’ it said after meeting with senior Boeing executives to discuss the investigation into the battery issues. “The safety of the flying public is our top priority and we won’t allow the 787 to return to commercial service until we’re confident that any proposed solution has addressed the battery failure risks,’’ it was quoted as saying.
Last week, Boeing’s European arch-rival Airbus said it decided to drop lithium-ion batteries planned for the new A350 aircraft it was developing and use heavier nickel-cadmium batteries instead.
On February 21, America’s leading carrier, United Airlines, said it was taking its six Boeing 787s out of service through June 5 due to air safety issues.