Air India plans to finally take off with its first Boeing 787 tomorrow on a flight to Delhi from Charleston, South Carolina, following an impromptu delivery ceremony today and months of bureaucratic wrangling over program delay compensation.
Africa First, the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner destined for the African continent, touched down at Washington Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia on August 15, a day after Ethiopian Airlines took delivery of the aircraft from Boeing in Everett, Washington, and four years later than planned. On August 16, the aircraft departed for Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport on its first revenue flight.
Boeing confirmed last week that the Indian government has approved terms reached between the manufacturer and Air India on compensation for delays associated with the 787 Dreamliner. “This is a key milestone for Air India,” a Boeing spokesman told AIN. “We’ll work with the customer to identify a delivery plan/schedule.”
The two pilots operating an Air India Airbus A330 between Delhi and Shanghai were grounded after an incident in which the aircraft encountered turbulence strong enough to damage the aircraft and injure some crew and passengers.
Despite reports from flight attendants of damage and injuries in the cabin, the two pilots did not divert the aircraft to a nearby airport, but continued on to the original destination.
Individuals can argue over who has lost more face as a result of Air India’s last-minute cancellation of its first Boeing 787 delivery: the U.S. airframer or the cash-strapped flag carrier and its masters in the Indian government.
Cash-strapped national carrier Air India, beset by a two-week strike by more than 200 pilots, has canceled service to more than 20 international destinations and is suffering losses of approximately $2 million a day. The strike, which resulted in the termination of 71 pilots, has not affected domestic and short-haul international flights, said a spokesperson.
Judging by the dominance of business jets at India Aviation 2012, held at Hyderabad in southern India from March 14 to 18, predictions of double-digit general aviation growth in the country have inspired manufacturers and service providers to boost their presence in the market.
India’s ailing airliner sector was conspicuous by its absence from the third biennial show, barring a static display of the Boeing 787 in Air India’s colors and a mock-up of the Russian Irkut MC-21 airliner. Instead, a spurt of announcements relating to India’s business aviation sector lifted spirits.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh argued for reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank April 27 during a brief speech celebrating the rollout of the first 787 Dreamliner from Boeing’s new final assembly facility in North Charleston, S.C.
Calling it an issue that “really hurts,” Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson used a keynote speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., to explain why Delta opposes U.S. Export-Import Bank loan guarantees that help foreign carriers buy Boeing airplanes.
In a reversal from an earlier policy, which gave state-owned Air India preference over bilateral aviation agreements for international routes, the Indian government will now open access to private airlines.