Air India Takes First 787

 - September 10, 2012, 10:45 AM
Air India’s first Boeing 787 took off for Delhi from Charleston, South Carolina, last Friday. (Photo: Boeing)

A busy fortnight for the Boeing 787 program climaxed with the arrival of Air India’s first Dreamliner in Delhi last Saturday, just a week after the first of the new widebodies destined to enter service in the Americas went to Chile’s LAN. But while the LAN ceremonies in Everett, Washington, took place with standard tidiness after several days of orderly preparation, an Air India crew had to wait for nearly two weeks in Charleston, South Carolina, before Boeing could publicly confirm the Indian flag carrier’s acceptance of its first airplane, following several months of bureaucratic wrangling over program delay compensation.

While Boeing likely would have preferred to avoid the suspense that preceded the Air India delivery, the opening of a third Dreamliner assembly line early the week before certainly helped set a positive tone for the LAN ceremonies. Boeing expects the so-called temporary surge line, established alongside the main 787 assembly line in Everett, to help it raise production rates from 3.5 to five per month by the end of this year and 10 per month by the end of next year.

By that time Boeing expects to have put to rest any lingering discord with the Indian government, which only last month approved delivery of Air India’s first 787 following its decision to “delink” negotiations over penalties for the airplane’s failure to meet weight guarantees from those related to delay compensation.

Air India holds firm delivery positions on 27 Dreamliners, one of which Boeing has finished assembling at its South Carolina plant, Boeing Commercial Airplanes v-p of India and Asia-Pacific sales Dinesh Keskar told AIN. The manufacturer flew two more Air India Dreamliners from Everett, Washington, to Charleston, both of which it planned to deliver to Delhi before any of the examples built in South Carolina.

Keskar said the Air India crew that delivered the 787 to Delhi last week would ferry the airplane to Mumbai, rest, then return to Charleston for the airline’s second Dreamliner. The process would likely take between seven and 10 days, he added.

Although Keskar couldn’t confirm Air India’s planned date for first revenue service, he said by last week the airline had trained 64 pilots to fly the 787 and it would limit service to domestic flights for the first 30 to 45 days to prepare crews for international flights. Air India’s first international service with the 787 will connect either Delhi or Mumbai with a major city in Australia, he added.