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Air India Dreamliners to be inducted in May

New Delhi: The first of the twenty-seven Boeing 787 Dreamliners ordered by Air India would be inducted in late May, as over 30 pilots are set to begin training to fly the new aircraft in Singapore.

The first Dreamliner is likely to be inducted in the second or third week of May, Air India sources said. It would be the same aircraft, carrying the Air India ensign and livery that was displayed at the Hyderabad Air-show in March.

Considered to be a "game-changer" for the ailing national carrier, the light-weight, long-haul aircraft made of composite materials like carbon fibre, is portrayed as very fuel-efficient which would help slash costs significantly.

The long-distance capability of the Boeing 787 aircraft would allow Air India to profitably operate non-stop flights to many distant cities like those in Australia and Africa besides the Americas, the sources said.

"A Dreamliner is ready in Seattle. We had brought it to Hyderabad (for the air-show) to showcase it. The government and Air India will have to decide when to take it," Vice President of Boeing International Trading Dinesh Keskar, told PTI here.

"Air India will have to do all the planning and (work out its) financing. We will be helping them in all this," he said.

Asked by when the second aircraft would be delivered, he said the second Boeing 787-8 was "almost ready. It can be delivered in June".

While Air India has ordered 27 of these new planes, Jet Airways has placed orders for ten. The national carrier is expected to get at least three of these air-planes this year.

Delhi and Mumbai would be Air India`s operational bases for the Dreamliner. Its flying schedule has been proposed on the assumption that it would fly 4,500 hours per annum, implying daily utilisation of 12-13 hours.

"Such a utilisation schedule can help Air India to go for even two international stations with the help of one aircraft," the airline sources said.

With the induction of the Dreamliner, Air India plans to launch non-stop services to several long-haul routes like Australia, Africa, North and South America. Necessary approvals for the aircraft from the US Federal Aviation Administration and Directorate General of Civil Aviation had also been received, Keskar said.

To questions on training and type-rating of pilots for the Dreamliner aircraft, the top Boeing official said the training programme has already begun.

"Pilots trained to fly Boeing-777s take less than ten days to get all required endorsements to fly the 787s," he said, adding that by May-end, about 32 pilots will be trained.

"That will be more than the numbers required for the moment."

The plane, which has so far been delivered by Boeing to Japan`s All Nippon Airways, has "a waiting list of seven years. The customers will wait for this new air-plane for its sophistication and cost-reduction capabilities", Keskar said.

Maintaining that the Dreamliner has 20 per cent less fuel burn than any comparable aircraft, he said "that amounts to tremendous savings, especially when fuel prices are going up by the day."

It has larger windows and cabin baggage space, besides mood-lighting inside the cabins and "auto-dimming" (smart glass) instead of window shades which reduce cabin glare while maintaining transparency.

The first Boeing 787 aircraft entered service over three years late as the company struggled with new materials, manufacturing processes used for the composite-plastic jet, lawsuits and strikes by its employees.

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