Qatar Air 787 grounded on same electrical fault as Uniteds
LONDON — Qatar Airways said a 787 jet received from Boeing this week has been grounded with a faulty generator, a problem similar to one that forced the emergency landing of a Dreamliner operated by United Continental.
Qatar Air’s third 787 exhibited the failure on its delivery flight from the United States, CEO Akbar Al Baker said Thursday. The plane has been grounded since Dec. 9 and may remain so for at least four days while Boeing sends spare parts and a recovery team.
“These problems are unacceptable because this aircraft has been flying for the last 14 months,” Al Baker said, referring to the Dreamliner, which entered commercial service late last year. “They have to get their act together very fast because we at Qatar Airways will not accept any more defects.”
A United 787 was forced to land on Dec. 4 following the failure of one of six generators. The 787, the world’s first composite-plastic airliner, saves on fuel with a Hamilton Sundstrand system that doesn’t divert air from the engines for power, instead using five times as much electricity as older jets.
“Two aircraft having the same problem — the same major problem — so quickly is a cause of concern,” Al Baker said, adding that Doha-based Qatar Air will ask Boeing to cover its losses. “Definitely we will demand compensation. We are not buying airplanes from them to put in a museum.”
Boeing said its technical team is working with Qatar Air to determine the cause of the generator failure and take appropriate steps.
“Boeing is working as expeditiously as possible to perform the replacement of electrical components needed to return Qatar Airway’s third 787 to service,” said Lori Gunter, a spokeswoman in Everett, Wash., where the planes were assembled.
Boeing also assembles the 787 in North Charleston. To date, just one South Carolina-made Dreamliner has been delivered, to Air India in October. The government-owned airline was scheduled to take the next locally assembled jet later that month, but there have been only test flights since, including several this week.
Al Baker said the generator glitch is particularly galling given that the 787’s commercial debut was delayed for more than three years because of issues with new materials and production techniques, and because the model has been flying for so long.
“I don’t think there is any excuse,” said Al Baker, who was at London Heathrow following Qatar Air’s first flight there with another of its 787s. “There will be teething problems, yes, minor teething problems.”
Qatar Airways, the second biggest Persian Gulf carrier, is due to get two more 787s on Wednesday, taking the fleet to five, Al Baker said. That will increase to 10 by the end of 2013, compared with an original plan for 30 before the program delays, he said.
“Hopefully, with the ramp-up of production at Boeing we will receive some more, but for that I will keep my fingers crossed,” Al Baker said. “We have told Boeing that this kind of problem is unacceptable to us because we are already falling behind our expansion program.”
Holdups with the Dreamliner already have forced Qatar Air into a “huge upgrade program” for its similarly sized Airbus SAS A330 planes in order to extend operations for at least three years, he said. Some of the carrier’s 29 A330s will get new seats and in-flight entertainment, he said.
Still, the performance of 787s delivered has been “quite adequate,” Al Baker said, and Qatar Air has seen no evidence of a separate fuel-leak problem that led the Federal Aviation Administration a week ago to order inspections and repairs.
“Boeing makes fine airplanes,” he said. “We hope we will always work with them as long as they satisfy our requirements.”
Boeing’s stock fell $1.15, or 1.5 percent, to close at $74.32 Thursday.
The Post and Courier and Chris Jasper and Susanna Ray of Bloomberg News contributed to this report.