Dreamliner’s Grounded Pilots Idle as Checks Continue

After numerous engineering disruptions, the Dreamliner 787 may soon be ready to take off again, however in the meantime, the league of pilots who have been specially trained to fly the fuel efficient, super advanced plane have found themselves unexpectedly grounded.

Roughly 350 pilots at All Nippon Airways Co (ANA) and Japan Airlines Co Ltd (JAL) have found themselves put on “blank days” in place of their usual flight schedules, meaning a 20-30% reduction in monthly pay. Having already undergone a three month intensive training course to initially fly the planes, the pilots can expect to be sent for simulator refresher training next month before being allowed to take to the skies again. Although many of the pilots have flown other planes in the past, after undertaking Dreamliner training, they were forbidden from flying any other carriers.

Following a forced emergency landing of one of the planes at the start of the year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave Boeing permission to conduct test flights on the 787 aircraft to identify the cause of the malfunction, linked to the highly developed lithium ion batteries used in these planes.

It was initially thought that it could take as long as June before the Dreamliner 787 would take off again, which could have spelt serious economic issues for many of the pilots, however tentative dates for flights are now being set as early as March 30th.

It isn’t just the pilots who are eagerly anticipating the resumption of normal service. After purchasing 24 of the 50 Dreamliner 787,  ANA and JAL have both experienced extortionate loss. The Japanese Transport Ministry has since said that it will support the country’s fleet of Boeing 787 by reducing extra charges.

In positive news, the go ahead has been given for Dreamliner test flight. The FAA said these tests will be necessary to collate information “on the battery and electrical system performance while the aircraft is airborne”, and will be conducted within strict guidelines over unpopulated areas in designated airspace.

Although CEO of Boeing’s commercial department Ray Connor ” is confident that following testing it will be possible to get the Dreamliner 787 flying again,  the FAA not only demands ‘root cause analysis’ but also a comprehensive appraisal “of the 787’s critical systems, including the aircraft’s design, manufacture and assembly”.

While it remains to be seen when the official all clear will come, at this time it seems pilots have no option but to try and enjoy their extended period of rest. According to an ANA spokesperson,”With no outlook on when flights will be resumed, we are not currently considering specific measures for pilots, such as switching them to other aircraft”. While JAL pilots are allowed to do basic training to keep up their licenses, likewise, the airline has no other plans for them other than indefinite vacation.

By Paula Pennant.

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