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Current as of 30/05/17 10:40AM NZST
Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Dreamliner safety review could be cause of concern for Air NZ

Air New Zealand has ordered 10 of the 787-9s. Photo / AP
Air New Zealand has ordered 10 of the 787-9s. Photo / AP

The board and new management of Air New Zealand could be worried by a United States Government review of the safety of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner, says local aviation commentator Peter Clark.

On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a comprehensive review of the 787's critical systems, including the design, manufacture and assembly, to find out what caused a fire, a fuel leak and other incidents last week.

Despite the incidents, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declared on Friday: "I believe this plane is safe, and I would have absolutely no reservations about boarding one of these planes and taking a flight."

Clark, who has flown in a 787, also considered the aircraft fundamentally safe and believed the FAA was covering itself to make sure it had not missed anything during certification.

Air New Zealand has firm orders for 10 of the 787-9s, made largely of a carbon-fibre reinforced plastic, which promise 20 per cent fuel-efficiency gains and greater passenger comfort.

When Air New Zealand signed as a launch customer for the 787-9 in 2004, it expected to have them by late 2010. They are now not due until the middle of next year.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Air New Zealand said the airline had no comment about the review, but Clark said delays to the larger nine-series 787s had already affected Air New Zealand's planned route expansion and the airline's bottom line.

The board and new management "could be extremely worried for their airline by the dash nine possibly being delayed further," he said.

"Times are tough and Air New Zealand needs to move ahead with its new management and I think this aircraft has the potential of delaying that unless it changes its strategy and looks at possibly a new aircraft."

Another local aviation commentator, David Stone, said the review was into the Boeing 787-8 and he did not know what the implication was for the larger nine-series planes, which are still to be built. Stone also said Air New Zealand could be worried the review would cause further delays.

The 787 is the aircraft maker's newest and most technologically advanced airliner, and the company is counting heavily on its success. It relies more than any other modern airliner on electrical signals to help power nearly everything the plane does. It's also the first Boeing plane to use rechargeable lithium ion batteries, which charge faster and can be moulded to space-saving shapes. A fire ignited last Monday in the battery pack of an auxiliary power unit of a Japan Airlines 787 empty of passengers as the plane sat on the tarmac at Boston's Logan International Airport. Also last week, a fuel leak delayed a flight from Boston to Tokyo of another Japan Airlines 787.

On Friday, Japan's All Nippon Airways reported two new cases of problems with the aircraft. A very small amount of oil was discovered leaking from an engine of a 787 flight from Japan's Miyazaki airport to Tokyo. On another flight, to Matsuyama glass in a cockpit window cracked.

Boeing has insisted the 787's problems are no worse than it experienced when its 777 was new in the mid-1990s. That plane is now one of its top-sellers.

- NZ Herald

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