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AI expects interim report on Dreamliners

January 18, 2013 18:15 IST

Air IndiaAir India expects an interim report from Boeing and US Federal Aviation Administration in a day or two on their probe into the technical problems faced by Dreamliner aircraft, all 50 of which have been grounded across the globe.

"We expect at least a preliminary or an interim report from the manufacturer and FAA in a couple of days, which might show us the way ahead," airline sources said here. Air India has grounded six of these planes in its fleet.

Once a report is received, the corrective measures that need to be taken by aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation and the national carrier would become clear and "we can move forward to handle the problem", they said.

The entire 50-strong global fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners, including six of Air India, were grounded on Thursday after US regulator FAA asked airlines to stop their operations temporarily till a battery fire risk was corrected.

Asked whether Air India would be seeking compensation from the US aircraft maker regarding the losses it would suffer due to the grounding of these planes, the sources said compensation was an issue but the airline was not considering it right now.

Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said Air India would be entitled to 'some compensation' but 'this can be discussed with Boeing when the time comes. . . These problems will entitle Air India some reimbursement but first let us get some clarity on the problem.'

Asked whether there would be any move to prune the orders for 27 B-787s, he said, "No. First let us get some clarity as to what is the problem, how long it will take to rectify it."

He said most of the orders of Boeing are for these planes, numbering around 800. "They have worked over 10 years to develop this aircraft."

Technical checks on the lithium ion battery, which powers the Boeing-787 Dreamliners, are being carried out in the US by the aircraft manufacturer, the airline sources said, adding that if the lapses cannot be corrected, replacing the battery could be looked into.

The new batteries would also have to be certified and approved by FAA and DGCA, they said.

However, replacing batteries in the aircraft might take about a month, they said, adding that Air India needed to change the batteries in six aircraft it has in its fleet now.

They said they had been informed that the batteries were undercharging.

This was leading them to heat up and swell in size, affecting the electrical and wiring systems and, thereby, causing sparks and fire.

According to reports, the batteries are produced by a Japanese firm, GS Yuasa Corp, which has also begun working with the investigators probing the technical glitches.

This is the first time that the powerful lithium-ion batteries are being used on a passenger jet.

Their capacity is considerably larger than the nickel-cadmium batteries that are otherwise used in planes.

These batteries, which are used in the International Space Station, F-22 and F-35 fighter aircraft and battery-powered cars like Tesla and Chevy Volt, generate more electricity required by Dreamliner, including powering the compressor that provides cabin air and the electro-thermal heater mats which prevent its wings from icing.

Three Dreamliners, all owned by Japanese carriers, have suffered technical and other problems this month -- an electrical fire, fuel leakage and a broken cockpit window.

In September last, Air India had also experienced a malfunctioning in a Dreamliner's liquid cooling system and electrical power system which had led to the grounding of all three of these planes in its fleet at that time.

Boeing has deputed a team in Delhi for any trouble-shooting for Dreamliners.

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