B787 Dreamliner power plants under scrutiny as Ethiopian already forced to change engine


As if the years of late delivery of the world’s most modern passenger aircraft were not enough, leaving airline expansion and modernization plans around the world in tatters and costing Boeing a fortune in compensation and reputation, it now seems that the durability and reliability of the engines has come under scrutiny too. In recent days were the social media aviation sites buzzing with Qatar Airways’ question ‘Where are our Dreamliners’ while at the same time highlighting on the unresolved issues over the engines which were to power those birds.

Regular aviation sources have said the General Electric GEnx engine appears to suffer from inexplicable hydraulics and oil leakage problems, immediately drawing parallels to the huge problems faced by Rolls Royce engines installed in the Airbus A380.

Qatar Airways’, one of the world’s fastest growing airlines with a very large order on their books for the B787 Dreamliner, showcased the first of them, due for delivery months ago, at the Farnborough Air Show, but then the aircraft ‘disappeared’ back to Boeing and has still not been formally delivered. Qatar’s outspoken CEO Akbar Al Baker is known to ‘let fly’ on occasions, like on a previous occasion when he admonished Airbus to learn how to build planes – to the reported exasperation of his company’s PR gurus at the time – and any further delays might risk a similar broadside vis a vis the further delays in delivery of the B787’s to QR. The situation however is clearly of concern as here in Africa Ethiopian Airlines, the first carrier on the African continent, last week also had to replace an engine on their B787, which was delivered only weeks earlier. The engine change was carried out at the airlines’ own maintenance facility at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa and teams from both Boeing and GE reportedly came to Addis, assisting the ET technical team in their task to establish the underlying problems which led to the engine replacement in the first place. Ethiopian had since the arrival of the aircraft showcased their new acquisition across their African network, to promote themselves as the airline of choice when flying out of Africa, but this latest setback for the Dreamliner, combined with the widely reported questions raised by Qatar Airways, is only bound to add more questions than give answers.

Another lesson of course is that the thinly concealed grins in the Boeing camp, when Airbus and Rolls Royce suffered similar problems earlier this year, were as misplaced as were those in the Airbus camp when the B787 debut was postponed time and again. There are lessons to be learned about how best to get a new bird in the air and deal with such arising teething problems and perhaps that is best done by focusing on the problem at hand and not concentrating on the mishaps of the ‘opposition’. Watch this space for regular and breaking news about all things aviation in Eastern Africa.

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