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dreamliner image-courtesy AI(Dreamliner image-courtesy AI)
“The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is an incredible technological achievement – one that sets a new standard for innovation,” exuded U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on 26th August 2011.
On that day, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved production of Boeing 787 Dreamliner with similar self-congratulatory claims that turned out to be unrealistic. 
FAA stated it had issued production certificate to Boeing “following a rigorous review by FAA inspectors of Boeing’s quality system, production tooling, manufacturing processes and controls, inspection methods, and supplier control procedures.”
FAA added: “The engineers, inspectors and flight test pilots all worked diligently to ensure our high safety standards were met.”
How dubious these claims have turned out can be gauged from the plight of Air India, one of the biggest customers for the Dreamliner. It is anybody’s guess whether FAA has accessed records of both AI and Boeing on the AI’s nightmarish experience of taking delivery of Dreamliners from Boeing and their subsequent commercial flights. 
Records show that Boeing has tried to pacify AI by issuing a letter, amending the Dreamliner Purchase Agreement to account for serious snags in main landing gear (MLG) seals delivery system of the aircraft. 
Aviation safety sources say that in that letter, Boeing has committed to rectify MLG problems, apart from offering modest compensation to IA. 
 Sources suggest that FAA should access such records in the interest of passengers’ safety. FAA has so far largely focused its attention on facilitating resolution of Dreamliner’s battery problems. It should also put in public domain all glitches suffered by the Dreamliner to avoid any compromise with the passenger safety.  
Apart from the commitments made in the amendment letter, Boeing has to pay to AI for revenue losses suffered on different counts right from delays in delivery to grounding of the aircraft following emergence of technical problems.  
Sources quoting AI as telling Boeing that AI had pressed into service Dreamliners with “lots of dreams and expectations.” AI’s experience with Dreamliners has been “unsatisfactory and depressing.” 
Dreamliner records show that till the first week of October 2013, AI had 58 delays, ramp returns, Aircraft on Ground (AOG) cases and five incidents that have collectively tarnished its image. AOG is a situation where an airline cannot fly an aircraft due to serious technical problems. 
Each AOG in Europe led AI into paying a compensation of Euro 600 to each passenger, apart from bearing their hotel expenses. Such unwarranted expenditure has wiped out entire revenue that IA earned. AI has, in fact been spending from more than the revenue earned in such instances. 
AI, which has so far taken the delivery of 12 Dreamliners, has held comprehensive negotiations with Boeing to improve the reliability of the aircraft.                       
Under a joint plan of action prepared to solve technical issues, the two companies have decided to carry out appropriate modifications to each Dreamliner in phases. The joint plan, which commenced in December 2013, would resolve both the hardware and software problems.
AI believes that each aircraft will require 10-12 days grounding. The rectification work on all Dreamliners in AI fleet is expected to be completed by April 2014.  
It remains to be seen whether AI would accept a low compensation of $ 24 million proposed by Boeing for the revenue loss suffered by the former due to snags in Dreamliners. 
AI has documented deficiencies in Dreamliners during the process of accepting the delivery of aircraft. AI’s technical acceptance team, for instance, noticed sparking in high voltage DC panel during a test flight of its 9th Dreamliner in the US on 29th August 2013. Boeing had to change the entire wiring of the defective panel before the next test flight that was organized on 15th September. 
Within eight days of FAA issuing export certificate of airworthiness for this Dreameliner, AI team detected fluid leak on both of the MLG shock struts of the 9th Dreamliner on 12th August. Leaks were detected on five more days during the period 17th August to 15th September.  
AI team declined to technically accept 9th Dreamliner unless this snag was removed. The team insisted that the MLG seals should be replaced and Boeing should demonstrate that the leakage is completed eliminated. 
AI team was highly concerned about this leak. This Boeing into committing cost-free rectification of this defect as well as replacements of seals if leakage occurs after 50 total flight cycles. Apart from this, Boeing has committed an appropriate compensation to AI for this snag.
Boeing also agreed to make a small compensation to AI for imperfections in the exterior paint on 9th Dreamliner, which AI reluctantly flew to Delhi from Boeing’s facility in South Carolina. This is in addition to extension of paint warranty to five years after delivery. 
All these deficiencies in Dreamliner raise a basic issue as to why FAA’s Indian counterpart, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has maintained silence on AI’s nerve-racking experience in taking delivery of Dreamliners and pressing them into commercial service. 
Had DGCA put in public domain AI’s Dreamliner woes, FAA would perhaps not have downgraded India’s compliance with international air safety norms. 
(posted at my new blog-http://indianairtransport.wordpress.com)                                      
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