Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner hit by further setback

Boeing Co’s 787 Dreamliner has been hit by a further setback, as wiring defects have been discovered in the fire-extinguisher system on three of its aircraft.

The fault was found on jets operated by Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA), the model’s biggest operator. The fault is likely to trigger the wrong extinguisher in the event of a blaze in one of the two engines, ANA said. The problem, the latest in a series of setbacks for Boeing’s 787, was first discovered during pre-flight maintenance of a jet at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, an ANA spokeswoman said.

Japan Airlines called back a 787 travelling from Tokyo to Helsinki to check the wiring after ANA reported the fault on Wednesday. Boeing said it was investigating the defect.

‘The safety of those flying on Boeing aeroplanes is our top priority. We will thoroughly examine this issue and take the appropriate steps,’ the company said.

Boeing’s flagship jet, which made its commercial debut in 2011, is already under scrutiny after a fire broke out on a 787 Dreamliner jet operated by Ethiopian Airlines while it was parked at Heathrow airport. The 787 had only returned to service with ANA and Japan Airlines on June 1 after battery problems grounded the entire fleet earlier this year.

US carrier, United Airlines, has also found a pinched wire during an inspection of one of its six 787s.

Boeing has since asked airlines to carry out inspections of the transmitters, and it has also asked operators of other aircraft models, the 717, Next-Generation 737, 747-400, 767 and 777, to inspect their aircraft.

According to its website, Boeing delivered 73 Dreamliners to 13 customers up until August 7, with more than 29,000 flights completed.

Boeing Dreamliner fire revives safety concerns

Concerns over the safety of the world’s newest passenger plane have increased after a Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by Ethiopian Airlines caught fire at Heathrow airport on Friday, and another 787 carrying British holidaymakers to Florida returned home after a technical fault.

The Ethiopian Airlines incident led to closure of runways at the London airport, as arrivals and departures were suspended for about an hour and a half until emergency services put out the fire. Heathrow said that the aircraft was parked on a remote stand and no passengers were aboard. The disruption hit about 80 arrivals and departures at Heathrow, causing delays of up to three hours and leading to the cancellation of at least 27 flights.

While the cause of the blaze is yet to be determined, the fire raised concerns that recurrent problems with the high-tech lithium batteries had not been resolved. The BBC reported that the plane on fire at Heathrow was the first 787 Dreamliner to resume flights after the grounding.

In a separate incident on Friday afternoon, a new Thomson Airways Dreamliner plane returned to Manchester airport after taking off on a transatlantic flight. Thomson began services for the first time last month, after the long-delayed delivery of its first 787s.

Thomson Airways, travel giant TUI’s own airline, was the first British customer for Boeing’s new plane, and the company commented that its flight TOM126 to Sanford, Florida, ‘experienced a technical issue’, with the aircraft returning to Manchester airport as a precautionary measure. ‘Passengers have disembarked and our dedicated team of engineers is now inspecting the aircraft. Our customers will be moved to an alternative aircraft to ensure they get away on their holiday as soon as possible,’ a spokesperson said, adding: ‘The safety of our customers and crew is of paramount importance and we would like to apologise for the delay caused.’

According to flight tracking data, the plane circled the coast off north Wales, apparently to dump fuel before landing. Thomson charges its passengers a GBP10 premium each way to fly in the 787, with seats only available as part of a holiday.

The pioneering Boeing 787, a ‘plastic plane’ made mostly of carbon fibre with more systems running on electric circuits, has been heralded as a far quieter, more fuel-efficient aircraft. Production problems had initially delayed the commercial service by three years until late 2011. A series of incidents – including two battery fires on All Nippon airways in January this year, resulted in US safety authorities recommending the grounding of the entire worldwide fleet. Ethiopian Airlines was the last airline to withdraw its four Dreamliners from service and the first to restart operations in late May.

British Airways has ordered 24 of the planes, and took delivery of its first Dreamliner two weeks ago, while Virgin Atlantic is set to get the first of its 16 Dreamliners in September 2014.

BA prepares for aircraft deliveries

British Airways, a UK-based airline, is preparing for the delivery of three new aircraft over the next four weeks.

Two Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft will be arriving in the UK later this month, following the model being given the all clear over a problem with an overheating battery that dogged it in the early part of this year. The two aircraft will arrive mid-morning on consecutive days, June 26 and 27.

The airline’s new Airbus A380 is due to arrive mid-morning on July 4.

Once all of the aircraft are in service, British Airways will be the first airline in Europe to have Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner in its fleet.

British Airways chief executive, Keith Williams, said, ‘The delivery of these exciting aircraft opens a new chapter in British Airways’ history.

‘We are proud to be leading the way in Europe in operating both these aircraft types.

‘Over the next 12 months, we will take delivery of new long-haul aircraft at an average rate of one every two weeks.

‘These deliveries form the centrepiece of the £5 billion investment British Airways is making in new aircraft, smarter cabins, superb lounges and new technologies to make travel more comfortable in the air and on the ground. Both aircraft types make major environmental advances and will contribute toward our ambitious targets for noise and carbon reduction.’

The A380 aircraft is already scheduled to commence commercial flights to Los Angeles on October 15, this year, and Hong Kong from November 15. The 787’s first destinations are yet to be revealed.

Dreamliner’s Heathrow return

Boeing’s battle against the problems that have afflicted its 787 Dreamliner aircraft has taken another step forward today with the arrival of the first scheduled flight into London Heathrow airport since the plane was grounded, worldwide, in January.

Doha-based carrier Qatar Airways has virtually repeated its achievement of being the first air carrier to bring the Dreamliner to Heathrow when it was first launched back in December, by being the first to fly it back into the UK’s busiest airport now that safety concerns have been addressed.

The aircraft suffered its international grounding approximately five months ago, following reports by two Japanese airlines that on board batteries were prone to overheating. A lengthy investigation followed, culminating in a solution being found to the problem that satisfied the world’s aviation authorities. Scheduled flights in other parts of the world have already recommenced.

Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways chief executive, said, ‘The Doha – Heathrow route is one of our most popular international routes, and so I’m thrilled that our Dreamliners are back in the skies, providing our passengers with an unparalleled level of service and comfort to and from the UK.I have always hailed the Dreamliner as the state-of-the-art aircraft destined to change the way people travel. After a setback that not only affected our own worldwide operations, but those of many carriers worldwide, we look forward to now deploying the Dreamliner on other key routes over the coming weeks.’

Delays in deliveries of the new aircraft caused by its technical difficulties mean that Qatar Airways is currently the only airline that will be operating scheduled Dreamliner flights to Heathrow.

Dreamliners could be cleared to fly again from today

Boeing, the US-based airplane manufacturer, is poised today for the news that its troubled aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner, has been cleared to fly again.

If, as rumours are suggesting, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) makes the announcement that it is satisfied with improvements that have been made to the safety of the aircraft’s batteries, it will bring to an end the Dreamliner’s 3 months of enforced grounding.

According to the Wall Street Journal, officials at the FAA approve of new technical measures to solve the aircraft’s overheating battery problem, including a protective metal container to prevent fires and dispose of smoke and toxic fumes. Assuming that aviation officials in other countries follow the FAA’s lead, Dreamliners could resume their operational schedules as early as next month.

The only delays to the process are likely to be the time that it takes Boeing to issue a service bulletin to instruct affected airlines on how to update the battery systems, the time that it takes the airlines to carry out the work – estimated to be just a few days, and flight testing and refresher training for pilots.

Problems with the aircraft’s overheating lithium-ion batteries first emerged in January this year, after two Japanese airlines reported that one battery had melted and another had caught fire. There followed a worldwide grounding of the aircraft, and new deliveries from Boeing’s full order book for the popular plane were also brought to a halt. The three interceding months have seen frantic efforts to isolate the problem that have culminated in today’s expected announcement.

Confirmation of BA’s Dreamliner order

UK-based airline, British Airways, has confirmed the order that it will be placing with US airplane builder, Boeing, for its 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

BA has confirmed an order for 18 Dreamliners, with a total order value in the region of $4 billion. BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), has already ordered 24 of the aircraft as well as 12 Airbus A380’s as part of the fleet modernisation plan that it initiated six years ago. The new aircraft will be replacing some of BA’s Boeing 747-400 fleet between 2017 and 2021, according to IAG.

BA’s order has been confirmed as Boeing comes close to completing tests on a new lithium-ion battery system for the Dreamliner to replace the original system that was prone to overheating. Resolving the problem will not only mean that operational aircraft that have been grounded since the problem arose should soon be able to resume service again, but also that Boeing will be able to recommence deliveries from its current order book of 841 Dreamliners.

Speaking today, Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, said, ‘British Airways has 24 Boeing 787s on order already and we plan to boost this by a further 18 aircraft by exercising our options. The aircraft offers a step change in fuel burn efficiency versus our existing aircraft with improvements in fuel cost per seat of more than 20 per cent. New technology engines and improved aerodynamics will lower fuel burn leading to reduced carbon and NOx emissions.

‘The creation of IAG has resulted in greater buying power for both airlines through joint procurement and we have been able to obtain delivery slots for Iberia as part of British Airways’ order.’

Thomson forced to delay Dreamliner debut

Thomson Holidays, a UK-based travel operator and subsidiary of Tui Travel Plc, has been forced to postpone the planned introduction of Boeing’s problematic 787 Dreamliner aircraft for its summer schedules.

Thomson was proud to promote itself as the first UK airline to have the state-of-the-art, eco-friendly aircraft available for passengers to experience, to the extent that it had applied a £10 supplement to flights where it was utilised, but on-going technical difficulties that have plagued manufacturer, Boeing, have put back the 787’s delivery for at least 2 months. Passengers that have paid the £10 supplement for flights from May this year, when the aircraft were originally intended to go into service, will now receive a refund from the travel company, as they will not now be available until July at the earliest.

Thomson has ordered eight Dreamliners, an aircraft that is lauded for its quietness and fuel-efficiency. However, technical problems, including over-heating batteries experienced by two Japanese airlines that were among the first to take delivery of the aircraft earlier this year, have resulted in all operational aircraft being grounded and new deliveries being postponed.

A spokesman for Thomson was quoted in the Daily Mail, saying, ‘Our dedicated customer service team is in the process of contacting all customers impacted to inform them that they will now be travelling on Thomson Airways (Boeing) 767 long-haul aircraft, which have premium cabins.

‘The supplement paid for the 787 Dreamliner flight will be refunded to those customers who proceed with their original holiday bookings, and customers will also have the option to amend their holiday without incurring any amendment fees.

‘We understand how frustrating and disappointing this news will be for those customers looking forward to flying on the 787 Dreamliner. We are equally as disappointed that Boeing was not able to confirm a delivery date for us but unfortunately these circumstances are out of our control.’

Thomson likely to delay Dreamliner Launch

Thomson Airways might be forced to introduce contingency plans if the scheduled launch of its Boeing 787 Dreamliner service has to be delayed due to technical issues.

The airline had intended to commence its Dreamliner service in May this year, but technical checks that are currently being carried out on the aircraft in Japan and the USA have led to the 50 Dreamliner’s that are currently in service around the globe being grounded because of safety issues.

Thomson has yet to be given a delivery date by Boeing for its first Dreamliner, which is just one of 800 orders that are currently suspended awaiting the outcome of the safety checks. The airline had intended to use the aircraft on flights to Mexico and Florida.

In a statement on the issue, Thomson Airways said, ‘We appreciate that there are many customers who are looking forward to flying on the Dreamliner but unfortunately these circumstances are out of our control.Once we have finalised our contingency plans we will contact customers whose flights may be affected.’

Doubts about the aircraft’s safety arose when a Japan Airline 787 Dreamliner was forced to land following a fire in its on-board battery. Subsequent technical checks on the causes are believed to be veering away from the fault being with the battery itself, but rather the electrical system that monitors its charging, voltage and temperature.

Boeing has been promoting the Dreamliner as the first airliner to offer mid-size airplane capabilities on long-distance routes, and while cooperating with the investigations, they remain confident of the aircraft’s safety.

Dreamliner battery not at fault

The worldwide investigation into Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft amidst fears regarding its safety has concluded that the airplane’s battery is not at fault as first thought.

US safety officials have ruled out overcharging as the cause of the battery fire, and are now focusing on the aircraft’s battery charger and auxiliary power unit.

UK airlines Thomson Airways and British Airways are both scheduled to receive their first Dreamliner aircraft in May this year, but this is now in doubt since – as of Friday January 18 – Boeing has put deliveries of the aircraft on hold until the Federal Aviation Administration has approved its plan to assure the battery’s safety.

The global grounding of Dreamliner aircraft came last week after Japan-based All Nippon Airways was forced to make an emergency landing during one of its flights when a warning light came on in the cockpit and indicated a battery problem. Japanese investigators said that the problem could be due to an overcharging battery, but the US National Transportation Safety Board has now said that overcharging was not the cause of the incident.

In a statement, the NTSB said, ‘Examination of the flight recorder data from the JAL B787 airplane indicates that the APU (auxiliary power unit) battery did not exceed its designed voltage of 32 volts.’

Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s commercial aircraft marketing vice president, commented, ‘The company is working around the clock with its customers and the various regulatory and investigative authorities. We will make available the entire resources of The Boeing Company to assist. We are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity. We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the travelling public of the 787’s safety and to return the airplanes to service. According to the FAA’s recent announcement, operations can resume once airlines have demonstrated the batteries are safe. Boeing is working with the FAA to define that process and timeline.’

All Dreamliner Aircraft Grounded

All 50 Boeing Dreamliner aircraft that are currently in service for various global airlines have been grounded, with Ethiopian Airlines becoming the latest of the airlines to ground its fleet.

The airlines are grounding the aircraft due to fears for its airworthiness following incidents of its onboard battery catching fire. This week two Japanese airlines, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airlines, became the first to ground their Dreamliner aircraft and begin an investigation into its safety standards. The Dreamliner is touted to be the first to offer mid-size airplane capabilities on long-distance routes.

The USA’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an emergency airworthiness directive for the temporary suspension of operations for all Boeing 787 Dreamliners in the US, a decision that has resulted in the grounding of all Dreamliners flown by United Airlines.

Ethiopian Airlines has stated, ‘Ethiopian Dreamliners have not encountered the type of problems such as those experienced by the other operators.

However, as an extra precautionary safety measure and in line with its commitment of putting safety above all else, Ethiopian has decided to pull out its four Dreamliners from operation and perform the special inspection requirements mandated by the US FAA.’

In a statement defending the airworthiness of Dreamliners, Boeing chairman, president and chief executive officer, Jim McNerney, said, ‘The safety of passengers and crew members who fly aboard Boeing airplanes is our highest priority.

Boeing is committed to supporting the FAA and finding answers as quickly as possible. The company is working around the clock with its customers and the various regulatory and investigative authorities. We will make available the entire resources of The Boeing Company to assist.

We are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity. We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the travelling public of the 787’s safety and to return the airplanes to service.’