Air India has grounded its entire fleet of six Boeing 787 Dreamliners after the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) issued an order on Thursday morning. The DGCA issued the order after the US aviation regulatory authority, the Federal Aviation Administration, came up with a similar advisory. Aviation minister Ajit Singh said no one knows how long will it take to resolve the issue and Air India is entitled for compensation.
"The directive came at 4.30am (India time). It is too early to even speculate how long this issue will take. So at the right time, if needed, AI will seek compensation from Boeing. For an airline, safety is top priority. The moment FAA advised grounding of the Dreamliner, the DGCA was asked to immediately issue orders accordingly here," Singh said.
He said the plane will be allowed to fly again only after a go-ahead from first the FAA and then DGCA. AI is hoping that the Dreamliners-on which its turnaround rests-start flying again. Because of the constant snags in this aircraft, AI had kept one of the six planes as standby. While two were deployed on Delhi-Paris and Delhi-Frankfurt routes, three were being used for domestic routes. While this aircraft accounted for just 4 per cent of AI's total capacity, the problem its absence is causing is huge.
Air India spokesperson said these routes will be not be affected, as they will be operated by other aircraft like the Boeing 777, B747, A320 and A321.
Currently, the entire global fleet of 50 Dreamliners has been temporarily grounded. No time-line has been given as to when these aircraft, the most technologically advanced crafts to come from the Boeing stable, will be deemed air-worthy.
In India, the hugely-popular A320 aircraft had met a similar fate in the early nineties, after the erstwhile Indian Airlines grounded its entire fleet of 18 Airbus A-320s for about eight months, following several technical glitches and finally a fatal crash in Bangalore.
The Dreamliner did its first commercial flight in October 2011 and of the 50 Boeing 787s delivered worldwide so far, about 50 per cent are with Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines Limited. The rest are with Air India, United Airlines, Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airlines among others.
For most of these airlines, a series of glitches marred the Dreamliner's entry into commercial service after incidents like battery malfunction, cracked cockpit window, over-heating of brake, air-conditioning problems and an electrical fire were reported by users worldwide. But the decision to ground all Dreamliners came after an ANA flight operated with this aircraft did an emergency landing as its cockpit instruments indicated a battery error. Japan's transport ministry said it considered the emergency landing a major incident that could have led to an accident. A similar incident occurred in Boston earlier.
Boeing chairman, president and CEO Jim McNerney in a statement issued on its website said: "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 traveling public of the 787's safety and to return the airplanes to service."