New Delhi, March 13: Air India hopes to start flying its fleet of Dreamliners by April-end after the US aviation authority approved Boeing’s plan to test redesigned batteries for the aircraft.
Regulators had grounded Dreamliner aircraft worldwide after defective batteries caught fire in two planes.
Air India officials today said if the tests were approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and India’s directorate general of civil aviation, the national carrier would resume Dreamliner services after making the changes.
“We are in constant touch with Boeing. They have said they will first put the batteries in a box, separate them from each other and provide a vent to prevent overheating. The tests will be conducted soon and hopefully a solution will be out by the end of this month,” said an Air India official.
The FAA said in a statement that the modifications would include changes in the internal components to minimise the possibility of short-circuiting, which can lead to overheating and fire. The battery’s cells will be provided better insulation, and a new containment and venting system will be added.
Boeing already has a team in India to look into the technical problems faced by Air India. This team will make the changes in the Boeing 787 Dreamliners to make them air-worthy.
Boeing chairman and chief executive Jim McNerney has welcomed the US aviation administration’s approval.
“We will not allow the planes to return to service unless we are satisfied that the new design ensures the safety of the aircraft and its passengers,” an FAA statement said.
Recently, India’s civil aviation ministry had said it was considering seeking compensation as the national carrier was estimated to lose around Rs 18 crore a month because of the grounding of its six Dreamliners.
“The delivery of the seventh aircraft has been stalled. All Nippon is also planning to ask for compensation and we may do the same. However, at present, our main concern is to get the Dreamliners flying again as soon as possible,” said a senior civil aviation ministry official.
Air India has been running flights to Dubai, Paris and Frankfurt with Dreamliner jets. The carrier took delivery of the sixth Dreamliner in January. Another six aircraft will arrive by December. The remaining 15 will be inducted through 2016.
Overheating and short-circuiting in lithium-ion batteries, which are used to boost the Dreamliner’s fuel efficiency, have kept 49 planes delivered to various airlines grounded since January 16. The move was prompted by a battery fire in a Dreamliner parked in Boston and a smoking battery that led to an emergency landing in Japan.