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India grounds all Air India Dreamliners


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New Delhi/Washington, Jan 17: India on Thursday grounded Air India’s six Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft after the US-based Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned of technical problems in the aircraft.

National carrier Air India is the only airline in the country which operates the 787 Dreamliner. Currently, it has six operational 787s in the fleet, which fly both on international and domestic routes.

"We have received instructions from the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) that all services on 787s should be withdrawn wih immediate effect," a senior Air India official told IANS.

According to the official, four 787s were grounded in Delhi and each in Bangalore and Chennai where the aircraft flew earlier this morning.

"The aircraft has flown from Delhi to Chennai and Bangalore before the warning came in. They had a safe landing. Two more aircraft came in this morning from Paris and Frankfurt to Delhi without any incident. They too are grounded," the official said.

Air India had booked 27 Boeing 787s in 2006 in a mega-deal.

Till now it has received six of these aircraft. Air India is supposed to get seven more 787s in 2013, five in 2014, six in 2015 and three in 2016.

The airline operates these aircraft from Delhi to Bangalore, Chennai, Dubai, Paris and Frankfurt.

On Sep 19, Air India started the first commercial Dreamliner service between Delhi and Chennai and then followed with the New Delhi-Bangalore route.

According to other Air India officials, the carrier will deploy Boeing 777s on some of the international routes like Delhi-Frankfurt and Delhi-Paris.

The Dubai route may be serviced by 777s or Airbus A321.

Earlier, the civil aviation ministry told the airline management to explore the possibility of operating to Bali and Istanbul on the newly acquired Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Air India was also planning to deploy the aircraft to Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore by the end of the current fiscal.

Contacted, DGCA said it would wait for the results of the FAA’s inquiry into Boeing’s ability to fix the fire risk, linked to battery failure on board the aircraft.

The move by FAA follows an emergency landing in Japan that prompted two of its major airlines to ground their fleet of 787s, and a similar problem aboard a Dreamliner on the ground in Boston nine days earlier.

The FAA’s emergency directive, issued Wednesday night, initially applied to United Airlines, the only American carrier using the new plane. It has six 787s.

The agency said it expected international regulators would take "parallel action". That would mean grounding of all 50 of the 787s delivered so far.

Seven other airlines, apart from Air India, now fly the Dreamliner.

All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines in Japan own 24 of the 50 aircraft delivered by Boeing since November 2011.

The other operators are Ethiopian Airlines, LAN Airlines of Chile, LOT of Poland, Qatar Airways and United Airlines of the US.

Orders for about 800 additional 787s are in the pipeline.


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