Qatar Airways defers plans for Perth Boeing 787 Dreamliner services due to 787 grounding

ABOVE: A Qatar Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.
Photo © Boeing

22 November 2012 (UPDATED 12 December 2012 & 17 January 2013) © David Eyre

Due to the worldwide grounding of Boeing 787s, Qatar Airways has deferred plans to introduce the Boeing 787-8 onto the Doha – Perth route, which were to start from 1 February 2013.

The airline will continue using Boeing 777-200LR and 777-300ER aircraft instead.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive grounding the Boeing 787 due to concerns about the risk of a fire caused by the  787’s two lithium-ion-polymer batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries are half the size of equivalent  nickel-cadmium or lead acid batteries used in earlier aircraft types and were an aviation first when  introduced. The Thales-supplied batteries start the Auxiliary Power Unit  in the tail cone, which in turn is used to generate electrical power on the  ground and start the engines.

In 2007, Boeing passed the FAA’s special safety conditions  related to lithium-ion batteries before the FAA issued airworthiness  certification for the 787.

In response to the FAA’s Emergency Airworthiness Directive, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney stated “We are confident the  787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity. The company is working  around the clock with its customers and the various regulatory and  investigative authorities.”

Three Boeing 787 safety investigations/reviews are underway  in France, Japan and the USA. On the day of the grounding, Polish airline LOT  had to cancel a planned ceremony to mark the launch of Boeing 787 services.

A total of 51 Boeing 787s have been delivered to airlines  including ANA, Japan Air Lines, Air India, United Airlines, Qatar Airways,  Ethiopian Airlines and LOT, with another 800 aircraft  on order.

Boeing 787s have suffered a number of   battery and electrical issues since entering service.

A Japan Air Lines  Boeing 787-8 (JA829J, line number 84) suffered a small but intense battery fire in the electrical bay whilst on the ground at Boston-Logan Airport, USA on Monday 7 January 2013. Fortunately no passengers were aboard the aircraft at the time, ands the aircraft was at the terminal gate. However, the fire took the city’s fire department 40 minutes to extinguish. This  prompted the FAA to review the Boeing 787.

This incident was followed one week later on 14 January 2012 by an ANA (All Nippon Airlines) Boeing 787-8 (JA804A line number 9) suffering an in-flight battery alert, and reportedly some smoke, which led the crew to make an emergency landing at Takamatsu, Japan.

This led to the grounding of all Boeing 787s in Japan and  the FAA’s emergency airworthiness directive

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker had announced at a Belgrade news conference  in November 2012 that Perth would be  the first Australian city to  have  Boeing 787 Dreamliner services. At the time, the Dreamliner service was reported as starting “in the last week of December 2012”. However, the airline’s CEO later announced that the Boeing 787-8 service would start from 1 February 2013.

Before the 787 grounding, Al Baker had publicly criticised Boeing for the aircraft’s ongoing electrical issues.

The airline had already announced Boeing 787 services to Frankfurt,  London Heathrow, Madrid,  Munich and Zurich.

Qatar Airways took delivery of their first 787-8 (A7-BCB) on 12 November 2012, and has received five of its Dreamliners, from a total order for 30 aircraft and 30 options.

David Eyre

President, Aviation Association of WA Inc

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