Qantas remains confident of bringing the Boeing 787 to Australian skies this year, despite a spate of problems which today culminated in leading Japanese airlines ANA and JAL grounding their entire fleet of 787s.
"We are confident that the current issues will be resolved before Jetstar receives its first aircraft as scheduled in the second half of this year" a Qantas spokesman said in a statement.
And while Qantas has trimmed the Boeing 787 order for its low-cost arm Jetstar, cancelling one of the 15 Dreamliners headed to the airline, it says this decision predates the current spate of Dreamliner problems.
The move to cancel this one Dreamliner – with a list price saving of some A$196 million – reportedly sees Qantas hedging its bets against a projected slow-down in Jetstar's international traffic.
On top of the 14 787s remaining on order for Jetstar, Qantas retains the option to buy up to 50 more Dreamliners in either the 787-8 or stretched 787-9 variant for delivery from 2016, to be shared between the Jetstar and Qantas fleets.
Qatar postpones Dreamliner's Perth-Doha debut
However, Qatar Airways has grounded its fleet of Boeing 787s and cancelled the planned a February 1 commencement of a daily Perth-Doha 787 service, which was to be Australia's first regular flight on Boeing's next-gen jetliner.
That Perth-Doha flight has now been replaced in Qatar's timetable by an extension of the current Boeing 777 aircraft.
British Airways and China Southern are also due to begin flying the 787 this year, with Air New Zealand following in 2014.
No dream run for the Dreamliner
It’s been far from the dream run which Boeing hoped for its next-generation jetliner.
Largely manufactured using radical carbon-fibre composites rather than metal, the revolutionary 787 has cost Boeing an estimated US$32 billion in development and was already more than three years overdue when the first 787 was handed over to ANA in September 2011.
ANA and JAL, which between them hold orders for 111 Dreamliners with an average list price of US$226.5 million, grounded their 787s for immediate inspection following today’s emergency landing in Japan of a domestic ANA flight from Tokyo after smoke was detected in the cockpit.
787 issues are "headaches, not heart attacks"
It’s the latest in a string of issues which have plagued the 787 over the past two months, leading to the aircraft now being reinspected by both US and Japanese aviation safety agencies.
In December, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney described the problems as “normal squawks” which occur in new types of aircraft.
And Michael Huerta, head of the US Federal Aviation Administration, vouched for the 787 even has he chaired a press conference on the FAA's investigation into the Dreamliner dramas.
"The Dreamliner is a technologically very advanced plane. I believe this aircraft is safe, and what we're seeing are issues associated with bringing any new technologically advanced product into service."
Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with Virginia-based Teal Group, told Reuters "there are an awful lot of new features, new technologies and new manufacturing techniques that have produced an enormous number of teething problems (in the 787), but so far no show stoppers. We're seeing headaches, not heart attacks."
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.