It’s risky to say it, given the history, but after months of waiting and uncertainty, today could be the day we get a real sense of when Boeing South Carolina will deliver its first 787 Dreamliner to Air India. The holding pattern may soon be over.
On Friday, the Indian government, which owns Air India, finally approved Boeing’s compensation package for more than three years of delivery delays.
That OK from the ministerial cabinet is what had been standing between three finished planes sitting expectantly in North Charleston and a historic hand over.
There are still issues to work out, most notably whether Air India will feel comfortable taking the first of its 27 Dreamliners while the National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the cause of an engine failure on one of its 787s during a pre-flight taxi test on July 28.
But Boeing’s Air India point man, Dinesh Keskar, was clearly relieved and excited Friday as he imagined his near-term visits to Charleston. Speaking of the delivery arrangements from Seattle, Keskar predicted “we will sort it out by Monday my time.”
Air India needs to get with its financiers about paying for the planes, and the airline must still test the first S.C.-built Dreamliner, but Keskar said the schedule will soon be clear.
“When I wake up on Monday, they will have worked their whole day, and we will have a better clarity on the delivery and when that will take place and all that sort of thing,” said the Boeing senior vice president for sales in Asia Pacific and India.
Delays and postponements have plagued the Dreamliner program generally and the Air India deliveries specifically. The South Asian flag carrier ordered its planes in 2005 and expected to begin inducting them into service in late 2008. Issues invovling technical difficulties, money problems and labor strife have threatened to derail the deliveries since then. The transaction, which has been the subject of much anticipation in the Lowcountry, has become the subject of dark humor among industry insiders.
But maybe the cloud of uncertainty will clear Monday, and we’ll learn when the first of those sun-tailed Dreamliners will finally fly away.
Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him on Twitter at @kearney_ brendan.