The Boeing 787 Dreamliner — Air India's (AI) newest jet that is central to its turnaround plans — continues to give the airline sleepless nights. The aircraft has suffered nearly 140 technical problems since September last year when it was inducted into AI's fleet.
The Dreamliners have been anything but a dream for AI. First, the plane was delayed for over four years and then overheating batteries prompted regulators worldwide to ground the entire fleet in January. Flights only resumed in April.
Experts have questioned AI's decision to place bulk orders for a plane that hadn't flown a single flight. AI was one of the first five airlines in the world to take delivery of a 787.
"Why go in for something that has not yet been tested?" questioned PC Sen, former chairman and managing director. "Why not go in for a tried-and-tested model if it is not affecting your business? That is common sense."
In fact, aviation ministry and AI officials have said on many occasions that the 787s delivered to them were not exactly what had been promised, and are overweight when compared to the initial design.
Kiran Rao, executive vice-president, Airbus — Boeing's arch rival — had told HT in an interview in 2011 that Dreamliners were heavier, burned more fuel and were five years late.
Boeing and AI have maintained there are no safety issues with the aircraft. "It is a safe airplane. It has never caused issues with the safety of passengers," said Dinesh Keskar, senior vice-president, Boeing.
"AI has put all its recovery eggs on 787 basket. They have to be aggressive in resolving glitches," said aviation safety expert Captain Mohan Ranganathan.
"The 787s have been a positive addition to AI's fleet, but operational challenges might continue for six months," said Kapil Kaul, South Asia CEO for consulatncy firm Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.