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The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which was hailed as a ‘game changer’ with the state of the art technology, is in trouble with all the 50 aircraft currently under service around the world being grounded.
The aircraft have encountered a series of mishaps in the past few months since its debut early in 2012. The most serious setback yet is this past week’s battery fire that forced an All Nippon Airways’ (ANA) aircraft to make an emergency landing.
The emergency landing on January 15 in Japan spurred a global grounding of the B787’s that are designed to be the most fuel efficient aircrafts with wider body and longer haul operation.
All Nippon Airways (ANA) which, together with Japan Airlines, was the first airlines to receive the aircraft, reported that a cockpit message showed battery problems and a burning smell was detected in the cockpit and the cabin, forcing the B787 on a domestic flight to make an emergency landing.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an emergency order grounding all Boeing 787 aircraft on late Wednesday, pending further investigation.
Ethiopian grounds Africa’s first 4 Dreamliners
Ethiopian Airlines, the national flag carrier also announced on January 17 that it has grounded its four operating B787 aircrafts as a precautionary measure noting that it was not as a result of problems faced.
Ethiopian is still scheduled to receive its fifth B787 aircraft in March 2013, with the remaining five expected to arrive in 2014.
Ethiopian grounded its B787 based on the directive of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This is the first of such call since 1979, to ground aircrafts being used by US operators and recommending other regulatory agencies to follow suit.
The four B787 aircrafts were said to be deployed on regular scheduled flights to Johannesburg, Washington D.C., Toronto, Frankfurt, Beijing and the Lusaka-Harare routes alternating with its B777-200 LR.
Before deciding to ground its aircraft earlier in the week Ethiopian had announced that it’s the only carrier in the World, which has experienced the design range capabilities of the Dreamliner by flying it from Washington D.C. to Addis Ababa (11500 km), the longest non-stop commercial service in record for the fleet.
Experts said that the grounding of the B787 would have more serious implications for airlines that use the aircraft for foreign flights than those using it for domestic flight.
Sources at Ethiopian said that B737 and B767 are being used to cover the gaps left by the withdrawal of the B787 aircraft. . Capital’s efforts to get official comments from Ethiopian with regards to alternative means implemented to ensure minimal disruption of flights was not successful at print time, Friday night.
Since its first delivery of the B787 in mid-August 2012, Ethiopian has logged an impressive 5,560 flight hours with average daily aircraft utilization of 14 hours.
Back in August, Ethiopian CEO Tewolde Gebremariam hailed the arrival of B787 saying it’s a decisive step for the airline as the Dreamliner has a spacious area, speed and is extremely fuel efficient.
He also said that he expects new flight routes to be opened with these airplanes to Washington D.C. and Guangdong, China, which seems to be jeopardized at this moment.
Ethiopian had also claimed that the aircraft will reduce side effects of long haul travel such as altitude sickness, jet lag, dryness and fatigue as well as reduction by as much as 60 percent in noise pollution and up to 30 percent cheaper in terms of maintenance costs.
“The dream will return”
The aircraft manufacturer Boeing who had a bumper season in 2012, outpacing its European competitor Airbus has been keeping a low profile.
Nevertheless, it gave a short statement on January 16 noting that it is committed to cooperate with FAA and that its working with its customers and various regulatory and investigative authorities to find answers.
It further said that it stands by the safety and integrity of the B787 and will be taking steps in the coming days to assure its customers and the travelling public of the B787’s safety and to return the airplanes to service.
However Boeing’s terse statement seems to have not assured some air carriers, as reports suggest the only European air operator Lot Polish Airlines, which has two B787’s is contemplating to get a full refund for its purchase.
The only US air operator of 787 United Airlines is also reportedly contemplating taking a similar action