What’s the deal with Air India’s 787s?

By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer

When will Air India take delivery of the carrier’s first Boeing Co. 787?

That’s the question not of the day or week, but of the summer.

Earlier this week, The Times of India reported that the airline’s first Dreamliner would arrive in India on Sunday. On Thursday, a fourth 787 showed up on the flight line near Boeing’s Charleston, S.C. facility, reported the Post and Courier.

Alas, a 787 delivery to Air India this week wasn’t meant to be. A Boeing official told South Carolina journalists that he’ll know more on Tuesday, but a delivery won’t take place this weekend.

The carrier originally was scheduled to be pick up its first 787, one assembled in Everett, in May. But pilots for Air India staged a labor strike over which pilots would get to fly the more technologically advanced 787s. Still, India’s minister of civil aviation told journalists in late May that a 787 delivery was imminent.

Then the Indian government, which is supporting the airline, raised concerns about compensation from Boeing for a three-year delay in the Dreamliner program. In June, Air India said the issue of compensation was resolved, yet the airline still didn’t come claim its 787s.

In July, Boeing flew two Everett-built 787s to Charleston, where the jets joined two North Charleston-built Dreamliners for delivery to Air India. Late that month, however, as one of Air India’s 787s was preparing for a test flight, the aircraft’s engine blew out debris and sparked a fire at the Charleston airport.

The National Transportation Safety Board still is investigating the case but said earlier this month that the engine trouble doesn’t pose an immediate safety concern, again clearing the path for Air India’s delivery.

Meanwhile, Boeing delivered Ethiopian Airlines’ first 787 on Tuesday, making the African carrier the third in the world to receive a Dreamliner, behind Japan’s All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines.

In Everett, 787s for other airlines, including Qatar and China Southern, continue to roll out of the paint hangar and onto the flight line. Both of those airlines are expected to receive Dreamliners by the end of August. Whether they’ll get 787s before Air India is yet to be seen.