The Thomson Dreamliner passenger jet, which was recently turned back after ‘experiencing a technical issue’, was again halted and redirected due to fog.
The flight from Cancun, Mexico, to Manchester, due in at 6.45am, was halted for over 30 minutes and diverted to Gatwick. The 264 passengers were kept on the runway for three hours before the flight could go back to Manchester when the fog had cleared. The travellers were informed that the autopilot feature that was needed to land the Boeing 787 in cloud had not been properly tested.
Thomson Airways, travel company TUI’s own airline, was the first British customer for Boeing’s new plane. The mist-hit £130million Dreamliner was previously forced to turn back over the Atlantic on Friday as a ‘precautionary measure’ while on the way to Cancun. It was fitted with new parts before it resumed the flight.
Peter Morris, a passenger flying back home after spending two weeks in the Mexican hotspot, told The Sun: ‘The captain said they’re only allowed to fly on manual because it’s a new plane and the autopilot has not been approved for use yet.’
‘This is the newest and most advanced plane in the world. I cannot get my head round the idea they would let it take to the skies without it being able to use the autopilot,’ he added.
A spokesman for Thomson Airways confirmed the jet was diverted due to fog and apologised for the delay. ‘Our pilot informed customers that he was not allowed to use the autopilot in fog on this occasion. Any airline operating a new aircraft has to ensure that a particular number of autopilot landings have taken place before they are allowed to use it to land in fog,’ he said.
The news comes as an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner caught fire at Heathrow Airport last week. The investigation had however ruled out any problems with over-heating batteries. Boeing’s Dreamliners fleet was earlier grounded for three months in January after its lithium-ion batteries overheated on two jets in about a week. It resumed commercial service in May after Boeing installed a redesigned battery system on the 50 jets in service.
Boeing launched the 787 Dreamliner in 2011 after investing £20 billion in its faster, lighter, more fuel-efficient design.