Transport Airlines

LOT Airlines unconcerned by 787 safety scare, greenlights aircraft’s first transatlantic flight

Jan 16, 2013 11:30 am

Skift Take

ANA and Japan Airlines felt obligated to ground their Dreamliner fleets following a series of questionable incidents, but many aviation experts agree that these growing pains are normal for a new series of aircraft.

— Samantha Shankman

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BriYYZ  / Flickr

LOT Polish Airlines previously used a Boeing 767 for transatlantic flights. BriYYZ / Flickr


LOT Polish Airlines SA, Europe’s first operator of the Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner, will proceed with its inaugural transatlantic flight today, defying a safety scare that led two Japanese airlines to ground their 787 fleets.

Flight LO3 to Chicago O’Hare International Airport from Warsaw is scheduled to depart at 3:55 p.m. local time, according to the airport website, and LOT said an examination of all systems before takeoff has revealed no issues.

“We conducted preventively a series of reviews of all systems in both Boeing 787s we have in our fleet,” LOT said in an e-mail. “All the tests were completed positively.”

LOT joins carriers including Qatar Airways in sticking with its Dreamliner service after an emergency landing by an All Nippon Airways Co. aircraft prompted the first operator of the 787 and Japan Airlines Co. to ground their fleets today and tomorrow. The aircraft, built in large parts from light composite materials, has been plagued by a series of in-flight and on-ground technical faults since deliveries began in 2011.

United Continental Holdings Inc. is operating its Tokyo-to- Los Angeles trip today with a Dreamliner, the plane assigned to that route. Flight 33 is behind schedule after a late takeoff, according to industry data tracker FlightAware.com.

The Chicago-based carrier had no comment late yesterday on the groundings in Japan, a spokesman, Rahsaan Johnson, said by e-mail. United is the only U.S. airline now flying the plane.

FAA Review

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has started a review of the entire Dreamliner program, with particular attention to the power system and lithium-ion batteries being used for the first time on a commercial aircraft.

The decision by the Japanese carriers, which represent the bulk of the in-service 787 fleet with 17 operated by ANA and seven by Japan Airlines “is not surprising given the public interest,” said Paul Hayes, head of safety at Ascend, a London- based aviation consultant. “There’s been no service bulletin, no airworthiness directives by safety regulators, so the decision to ground is purely a commercial one.”

LOT said its aircraft are not among the initial production batch and therefore have “modifications which reduce technical problems appearing in previously manufactured Dreamliners for the other carriers.”

ANA pilots made an emergency landing in Japan this morning after seeing a battery-fault warning and smelling smoke, prompting the grounding. The event came a week after a battery in a Japan Airlines Dreamliner caught fire in Boston, prompting U.S. regulators to review the jet that entered service in 2011. The batteries are made by

Qatar Air, which operates five 787s, said it would continue flying. Arun Mishra, India’s Director General of Civil Aviation, said the regulator will conduct checks on all six Dreamliners in Mumbai-based Air India’s fleet. Ethiopian Airlines said “minor bugs” are common on new aircraft, and that it is pleased with the aircraft’s performance so far.

With assistance from Maciej Martewicz in Warsaw. Editors: Benedikt Kammel and David Risser. 

To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Wall in London at rwall6@bloomberg.net; Andrea Rothman in Toulouse at aerothman@bloomberg.net. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net.

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