‘Drip-drip-drip’: more Boeing 787 squawks

Two years after it entered service, the Boeing 787 continues to rebel against the name Dreamliner.

Over the weekend, The Associated Press reported that Norwegian Air Shuttle had pulled the model from service due to undisclosed technical problems — this after news earlier in the week that Norwegian Air’s problems with the plane were so disruptive that, according to The Seattle Times, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner flew to Scandinavia to appease the carrier.

The Times added that LOT, the flag carrier of Poland, also had recent schedule-disrupting problems, caused by an absence of fuel filters in Rolls-Royce engines.

Turns out that’s not the only Dreamliner problem at LOT. Today Reuters reports that a LOT 787 en route from Toronto to Warsaw on Sunday had to land in Iceland because the “identification system” (the transponder, we assume) was not functional — normally no big deal — and Norway wouldn’t let it enter its airspace.

“Norway does not seem to give the 787 any slack,” noted AirInsight, an aviation consultancy, quoting the Reuters report.

Like many newsworthy 787 headaches since the plane entered commercial service, these problems were not exactly Boeing’s fault. Components from the supply chain are to blame in many cases. As the company notes on its website, “An international team of top aerospace companies builds the airplane, led by Boeing at its Everett, Wash., facility near Seattle and in North Charleston, S.C.”

So maybe not always Boeing’s fault. But Boeing is responsible. Says AirInsight:

The drip-drip-drip of 787-related issues have clearly worn relations between Boeing and its customers. LOT, as an unprofitable airline, cannot sustain operational cost impacts the 787 has brought. The Iceland issue required two other aircraft to be flown to pick the passengers.

Boeing is clearly uncomfortable. The company’s unflappable VP Marketing Randy Tinseth is quoted saying, “Today, the reliability of the 787 is better than 95 percent. It’s not as good as we’d like to see it. It’s not as good as our customers would like to see it. So we’re looking at ways to improve that reliability over time. Every plane that we bring to the market clearly or oftentimes has issues as we go through the maturation process. The 787 has been no exception to that. Clearly we’ve had some challenges on 787 reliability and we’re focused on making that reliability better.”

Once again Boeing’s 787 is attracting negative attention for its 95 percent dispatch reliability, which is well below the 99 percent airlines want and need, and well below that of other Boeing products, which are consistently among industry leaders.

Tinseth’s remarks were made in Santiago, Chile, where he was promoting Boeing’s annual “Current Market Outlook” for airplane demand. LATAM Airlines (formerly LAN Chile and TAM of Brazil) has taken delivery of three of 32 ordered Dreamliners. So far, no problems have been reported from the Southern Hemisphere. Hmmm.

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