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Air India Dreamliner flight from Melbourne makes emergency landing due to 'glitches'

6/02/2014 Jessica Wright
Air India Dreamliner touches down in Sydney. © James Morgan Air India Dreamliner touches down in Sydney.

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner has flown into more troubles with an Air India flight from Melbourne to Delhi on Wednesday diverted to Kuala Lumpur after all three of the jet's navigation computers failed simultaneously.

Flight AI 301, with 231 people on board including 18 crew members, landed in Kuala Lumpur safely but all passengers remain stuck in the Malaysian capital.

The same Dreamliner was grounded last year when its windshield cracked after landing in Delhi. During a subsequent examination it was revealed the plane also had a badly damaged landing gear door.

In November the same plane had its the windshield cracked while landing in Melbourne, making it the sixth such incident for the Air India Dreamliner fleet in three months.

Aviation records show windshield cracks most often occur in aircraft that are more than 4-5 years old.

The Dreamliner made unwanted headlines in October when an Air India flight from Delhi to Bangalore, carrying 150 passengers and crew, underwent a mid-air drama with a large panel of the undercarriage shearing off during the flight, exposing critical components to the elements.

On Thursday an Air India official said the airline was doing its best to accommodate passengers and was ''rushing engineers and technical equipment to Kuala Lumpur''.

''Passengers are being taken care of there and those who have to rush to Delhi are being accommodated on other airlines,'' he said.

''The other passengers will leave as soon as the aircraft is rectified. There was no safety issue in the latest snag but it has caused inconvenience to passengers and huge expenses to the airline." A spokesman for Boeing confirmed the company was sending a team of experts from Hong Kong to Malaysia to urgently assess the plane.

The airline spokesman said the failure of the computers was a serious one as it occurred simultaneously in the three flight management computers that control navigation and allow a plane to fly long distances on auto pilot.

It is understood the failure of these computers does not render a plane incapacitated or pose an immediate safety threat but severely degrades its capabilities to fly long distances.

In this instance, the plane would have been immediately taken off auto pilot, with pilots required to fly manually and divert the aircraft to the nearest airport.

After taking receipt of its Dreamliner fleet in September 2012, Air India has recorded 136 "minor" technical problems with the aircraft, all of which, according to the country's's Civil Aviation Minister, have been rectified.

Scandinavian operator Norwegian Air Shuttle has also criticised the plane's reliability after it found a flaw in the electrical system.

Air India Dreamliner touched down in Australia in September after a 16-year gap, marking the resumption of direct flights to Australia. The flights make stops in both Melbourne and Sydney before returning to Delhi.

In Australia, Qantas subsidiary airline Jetstar has operated three Dreamliners since November.

Boeing has yet to issue an official statement on the latest incident involving its revolutionary new aircraft.

US aviation authorities downgraded India's air safety ranking last week to category two, saying its aviation safety oversight regime did not comply with international safety standards.

The downgrade brought India below Pakistan and on a par with countries like Bangladesh, Ghana and Indonesia, according to US Federal Aviation Administration.

Singapore Airlines A380 grounded

Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines said Wednesday it had grounded an Airbus A380 superjumbo for further inspection after scratches were found on its fuselage.

The scratches were discovered after the double-decker plane, the world's biggest passenger aircraft, arrived in Frankfurt on Sunday from New York, SIA said in a statement.

There were 126 passengers and 26 crew onboard.

"The aircraft was subsequently grounded for checks and passengers were either transferred to other airlines or accommodated in hotels," the statement said.

"Following inspections by engineering teams in Frankfurt, it was determined that the scratches posed no safety issue and the aircraft was cleared for departure."

The plane arrived in Singapore on Tuesday after a 23-hour delay and has been grounded for further checks.

SIA said the cause of the scratches has yet to be established.

"Our engineers are currently performing further checks on the aircraft, and it will resume service once cleared," the airline said.

A source close to Airbus said in Paris on Wednesday that the scratches were probably caused by a "defrosting system" at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Experts say the defrosting equipment is used to remove and prevent the build-up of ice on the plane's outer surface, especially on the wings and fuselage, by spraying chemicals using high-pressure water jets.

The United States has been hit by extra-cold weather in recent weeks, with a massive storm on Tuesday bringing with it a dangerous mix of frozen rain and sleet.

The incident on Sunday was the second for SIA in less than a month involving an Airbus 380.

On January 6, an SIA A380 en route from London to Singapore lost cabin pressure, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku.

Oxygen masks were activated during the emergency procedure which some passengers described as "frightening".

The stranded 467 passengers and 27 crew on board were flown back to Singapore with a replacement aircraft.

The plane involved in the Baku incident was back in service, SIA said Wednesday, but added that the "root cause" of the incident remained under investigation.

SIA had previously said that the focus of the probe was a door on the main deck that appeared to have suffered a leak, leading to the change in cabin pressure.

There are 119 Airbus A380s in operation globally, according to latest data from the company.

Singapore Airlines currently has a fleet of 19 A380s, with five others on order.

with AFP

An Air India Dreamliner that took off from Melbourne has made an emergency landing in Kuala Lumpur. © James Morgan An Air India Dreamliner that took off from Melbourne has made an emergency landing in Kuala Lumpur.
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