New Zealanders flying on Jetstar's new Boeing 787-8s, have been assured the Dreamliner's teething troubles are under control.
The first of 14 of the budget airline's state-of-the-art aircraft will touch down in Melbourne on Wednesday. The aircraft, which will be delivered over the next three years, will replace Airbus A330s on long-haul routes including Auckland to Singapore.
The Dreamliners have been dogged with electrical and other issues including battery fires, which grounded the entire fleet for three months earlier in the year.
Just last week, Norwegian Air Shuttle publicly struck out at Boeing after having to pull a new US$212 million (NZ$255m) plane from service over brake and hydraulic-pump problems.
At a briefing in Seattle this morning, Boeing's 787 vice president and general manager Larry Loftis said the plane maker was working to resolve any issues.
"We want the airplane to perform better than it is today," he said.
"With any new airplane, you will get a lot of learnings as you see how the airplane's performing."
The battery problem had been solved by encasing it in a 3.175-millimetre-thick stainless steel box, with vents to the outside of the aircraft.
Loftis said Boeing took "full ownership" over another issue involving malfunctioning antennae from a supplier, adding: "There's only so much I can say because it is an active investigation."
Boeing's operations centre in Seattle has a dedicated team which monitors its customers' fleets of 787s.
Thousands of parameters are measured and logged, and any maintenance issues are immediately flagged with the airlines.
Alan Joyce, chief executive of Jetstar's parent company Qantas, was not fazed by the series of glitches.
"We're very comfortable this is an extremely safe vehicle," he said.
Joyce said Qantas had a team working alongside Boeing and its chief engineer had visited Australia to brief him.
"In terms of the reliability, every aircraft that's been introduced has had reliability issues at the start," he said.
"The 787 is the newest kid on the block - it's getting a lot more attention."
Jetstar has stolen a march over Air New Zealand, which is expected to receive the first of 10 of its own Dreamliners midway through next year.
The national carrier will be the first airline to take delivery of Boeing's 787-9, a "stretched" version of the original plane which carries up to 40 more passengers than the 787-8s and has a longer range.
The 787's main attraction is a 20 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency over similar sized aircraft, which is expected to produce huge savings for airlines.
It also boasts a range of new passenger comforts, including larger, electronically-dimmable windows, a lower-pressure cabin and higher ceilings.
Richard Meadows is in Seattle on a Jetstar-sponsored trip to take delivery of the Dreamliner.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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