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Dreamliner for AI suffers engine mishap; probe on in the US

Last updated on: August 1, 2012 09:40 IST

Dreamliner for AI suffers engine mishap; probe on in the US

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Praveen Bose in Bangalore

A
Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft meant for Air India has suffered a serious mishap during pre-flight testing in the United States. Investigation is on into the incident, Boeing said.

This is only the second aircraft to be built at the airframer's Charleston, South Carolina, facility. Other Dreamliners have been built at its Everett facility in the state of Washington.

It was undergoing pre-flight testing at Charleston over the weekend. The facility was to make two Dreamliner aircraft for AI and this was the second one. It had rolled out its first 787 Dreamliner, destined for AI, in April.

"This was not one of the three Air India airplanes currently awaiting delivery. This airplane was completed recently and was in the early stages of testing to prepare the plane for delivery to Air India," a spokesman from Boeing Commercial Airplanes told Business Standard. When asked, an AI spokesperson declined any comment.

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Photographs: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

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AI has 27 of these aircraft on order and was once scheduled to receive the first one in September 2008. This was pushed back because of delays on the 787 programme.

Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh had cancelled the delivery plan last month, insisting Boeing would first have to agree to a revised compensation package for the programme's delays.

The Boeing spokesman said,: "A 787 experienced an engine issue on July 28 while undergoing preflight runway testing in North Charleston. As the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates, Boeing and GE are working closely with the agency and are committed to resolving the issue appropriately." NTSB is an independent federal agency, charged by the US legislature with investigating every civil aviation accident in the US.

"While the investigation is in its early stages, we are unaware of any operational issue that would present concerns about the continued safe operation of in-service 787s powered by GE engines. However, should the investigation determine a need to act, Boeing has the processes in place to take action and will do so appropriately," he said.

He, however, did not disclose the nature of the engine issue, due to rules surrounding the investigation. According to earlier reports, debris from a brand-new Dreamliner's engine fell on the runway and into the grass at Charleston International Airport on Saturday afternoon, sparking a fire and shutting the airport, with flights diverted for over an hour.

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Photographs: Reuters

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The aircraft is powered by General Electric Co's GEnx engine. Japan Airlines is presently the only operator of GEnx powered-787s, with four aircraft in its fleet. The only other operator of the 787, All Nippon Airways, uses the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines.

According to a GE statement: "During a ground test run in North Charleston on July 28, a GEnx-1B engine on a non-revenue generating Boeing 787 aircraft experienced an issue. No one was injured. About 100 GEnx engines are in service, and they have accumulated more than 125,000 flight hours."

Adding: "GE continually monitors and analyses the performance of the GEnx fleet in service, and we are not aware of operational issues that would hazard the continued safe flight of aircraft powered by these engines."

"This incident comes within the week after ANA partially grounded some of its 787s after corrosion was found in its Trent 1000 engine gearbox components. The GEnx engine is also used to power the newest version of the venerable Jumbo Jet, the 747-8," said Devesh Agarwal, an aviation analyst based in Bangalore.


Photographs: Robert Sorbo/Reuters

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