Dressed-up Dreamliners have nowhere to fly
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The first of the 27 Boeing 787 Dreamliners — the new aircraft ordered by Air India that is right at the centre of the 43-day-old strike by pilots — is ready and waiting for more than a month and a half at Boeing's Everett factory in Seattle. Ironically, the aircraft delivery, already three years behind schedule, has been put off at the last minute due to a dispute over the settlement of compensation amount for this delay.
The planes would now reach Indian shores only when the government takes a final call on the Rs 4,600 crore compensation package that Boeing needs to foot.
The aircraft, said sources, has been 'picketed', which in aviation parlance refers to sealing of the plane after all necessary clearances have been obtained. "An aircraft, before it is readied to be delivered, has to undergo several checks," said a senior aviation industry expert. These include checks by the manufacturer and customer, who flies the aircraft with its own crew. Air India has run its checks in May, sources said.
However, the vexed issue of compensation has come back to haunt the final delivery schedule of these aircraft. Boeing had geared up to receive Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh-led delegation, inviting them to a ceremony in Charlestown, when a last-minute communique from the ministry derailed the delivery. Sources said that Singh had convinced Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to receive the delivery of the first aircraft at the Delhi airport.
When Boeing agreed to a compensation of Rs 4,600 crore, the matter was referred to the ministry, which took the proposal to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. The proposal, slated to come up before the CCEA last Thursday, was deferred.
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