Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Snag forces Air India Boeing 787-800 to return to London

NEW DELHI: Boeing's unending problems with its Dreamliners continue to give nightmares to passengers and airlines using this aircraft. In the latest trouble, an Air India Boeing 787-800 flying from London to Delhi on Sunday night saw its transponders failing. The aircraft, which was over Germany after flying for about two hours from UK, then had to return to Heathrow. It barely made it there in time for the night curfew to kick in at Heathrow.

This vital equipment plays several crucial roles: it gives a collision warning to the pilot if another aircraft gets too close for comfort; pilots can use it to send distress signal discreetly to ATC and finally, it gives all details of the aircraft on the blips that appear on ATC radars. The emergency situations that transponders are used to warn ground controllers about are communication failure, hijack and any other emergency.

This is incidentally the second time Dreamliners with AI had transponder failure. On December 19, Boeing-787 flying from Delhi to Paris suffered the same snag due to which Charles de Gaulle Airport did not know which plane is approaching it. It was only after the ATC contacted the aircraft that they found that the plane was on a regular schedule flight to Paris!

Confirming the latest B-787 transponder trouble, an AI spokesman said: "The transponder trouble came after the aircraft had been airborne for about two hours. It then had to return to London. We sincerely hope Boeing is able to modification to the transponder issue. The aircraft is ready now and will leave London soon."

Transponder is the primary means for ground radar to identify an aircraft so that radar controller knows the position, altitude and speed of an aircraft. Apart from safety issues, failure of transponder means that in a busy airport an unidentified blip causes confusion and ATCs have to contact the aircraft. This kind of equipment failure in a brand new plane is unacceptable, said a senior pilot.

AI officials are fuming that Dreamliner snags are earning the airline a bad name while the Maharaja was hoping for a turnaround from this aircraft. "None of the Dreamliner issues have any bearing on safety. But snags mean delays and cancellations. Apart from earning the ire of passengers, we have to spend lakhs on putting passengers up in hotels. The aviation ministry should take the issue up with Boeing sternly," said a source.

The government recently disclosed that AI's Dreamliners had suffered 136 'minor' technical problems between September, 2012, and last month. The most recent troubles include cracked windshields and flap actuators breaking.

Source:   http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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