ANA Gains Wisdom As It Tackles Dreamliner Issues

 - February 19, 2014, 3:26 PM
ANA reports dispatch reliability of 99.63 percent and 98.51 percent, respectively, for its domestic-service and international 787s. (Photo: ANA)

Boeing 787 launch customer ANA reports dispatch reliability of 99.63 percent and 98.51 percent, respectively, for its domestic-service and international Dreamliners, less in each case than its fleet average. The carrier said that it expects 787 reliability will improve as it gains more knowledge of the airplane, which continues to present technical issues.

“It’s not so bad,” Kohei Tsuji, ANA director of network planning, said of the Dreamliner’s dispatch reliability rate, the percentage of flights that depart within a specified time of their scheduled departure. “Of course it remains below the average of our whole fleet, but it’s improving.” Tsuji, who AIN interviewed at ANA’s offices in Tokyo, said the carrier’s overall domestic fleet reliability averages 99.80 while its international fleet averages 99.54. ANA operated 227 total aircraft as of February 1.

Boeing delivered the first 787 to ANA in September 2011, nearly three-and-a-half years later than originally scheduled. The carrier operated 17 Dreamliners as of Jan. 16, 2013, when both ANA and domestic rival Japan Airlines grounded their 787s following a series of lithium-ion battery incidents. During the nearly five months that ensued before ANA resumed flying the 787 on revenue flights in June, the airline completed not only the battery-system modifications Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau required, but other needed fixes, Tsuji said, mentioning electrical generators and flight-control software specifically. It flew more than 200 non-revenue test flights with the airplane in collaboration with the JCAB.

“When we resumed operations, other modifications not limited to the battery were embodied,” Tsuji said. “Of course, we are still struggling. This is a state-of-the-art aircraft. A lot of the functions are well integrated, and so are very complicated. We still have a software problem.”

During an earnings call last October, Boeing chairman and CEO James McNerney expressed disappointment about the dispatch rate of the overall Dreamliner fleet—then around 97 percent—and acknowledged that faulty software messages have frustrated 787 operators. According to Tsuji, “once one message pops up, it is quite hard just to erase it.”

ANA has experienced other problems with the 787. The carrier grounded five Dreamliners in July 2012 after Rolls-Royce discovered a defect in a batch of Trent 1000 engines installed in the airplanes. Last July, ANA removed Honeywell-made emergency locator transmitters (ELT) on 20 Dreamliners after finding a damaged battery wire on one ELT.

Tsuji said the 200 non-revenue flights ANA conducted while authorities grounded the 787 fleet early last year over battery problems, and its experience with the airplane since then, including 16,871 accumulated landings, have provided pilots and mechanics with technical knowledge that should help to improve the Dreamliner dispatch rate. ANA possessed 24 Dreamliners at the end of January, and it currently uses the jets on 75 to 80 flights a day. It expects that Boeing will deliver its first 787-9 in June or July.

“We are working closely with the manufacturers, not limited to Boeing but some major suppliers like Honeywell and Rockwell [Collins],” he said. “Our mission is to provide a safe flight. Even though there are some technical problems on the aircraft, we have to offer the flight every day. We have to fix it.”