Friday, February 28, 2014

Dreamliner snags: Directorate General of Civil Aviation warns Boeing of ‘any action’, even grounding, if issues not resolved

NEW DELHI: India on Friday read out the riot act to US aircraft major Boeing over the seemingly endless technical snags plaguing the B-787 Dreamliner. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) summoned a Boeing team and told them to either fix the problems or India would take any “action in interest of flight safety” — including grounding the Dreamliners. 

The regulator told the US team that India had grounded erstwhile Indian Airlines’ fleet of brand new Airbus A-320s in the early 1990s due to “teething troubles” while other countries using this plane did not do so. Air India has so far taken delivery of 12 of the 27 ordered 12 Dreamliners.

DGCA joint director general in charge of safety, Lalit Gupta, on Friday told the Boeing team that AI’s Dreamliners have from induction in 2012 to February 24, 2014, suffered 44 major engineering snags that are direct manufacturing issues. There have been nine equipment failures; six landing gear troubles; seven flight control issues; four navigation snags and three windshield cracks. While 2012, when Dreamliners were inducted in AI fleet, saw one of these problems, 2013 saw 30 and this year till February 24, there have been 13 major engineering snags.

Boeing and AI say that none of these issues have affected the safety of the aircraft or passengers — so far.

After the meeting, DGCA chief Prabhat Kumar issued an order that read: “They (Boeing) have been told in no uncertain terms that DGCA will be forced to take any action in interest of flight safety is these issues are not satisfactorily resolved” — clearly hinting at grounding as an option.

Aviation secretary Ashok Lavasa had recently asked AI to check with other airlines if they too were facing similar issues. Lalit Gupta, accordingly, asked Boeing to submit a complete list of problems being faced by other airlines using the Dreamliners by March 10 and benchmark them with the issues that AI is confronted with. “Boeing will give us a monthly list of problems faced by the B-787 globally and that will be compared with snags in AI’s fleet,” said an official.

The tough stance with Boeing comes exactly a month after the US Federal Aviation Administration’s downgraded India’s aviation safety ranking to the level of Bangladesh, Barbados, Ghana and Nicaragua.

The government recently said AI’s Dreamliner fleet had suffered 136 ‘minor’ technical problems between their delivery since September, 2012, and November, 2013.

AI is seeking compensation from Boeing for three counts of the Dreamliner — the over three-year delay in delivery of the aircraft; grounding of this aircraft for four months last year and for failure to meet “guaranteed performance” standards of fuel consumption as the plane has not proven to be as fuel efficient as it was promised to be and was the deal-clincher for AI placing order for 27 of them.


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