Airbus invokes “Plan B” while Dreamliner remains grounded till the summer

The Boeing Dreamliner which was grounded globally on January 16th will remain grounded at least till the end of March and possibly till the summer. United Airlines has removed the Dreamliner from all its schedules till March 30th. But LOT Polish Airlines which flies Boeing 767’s and was hoping for these to be replaced by 5 Dreamliners at the end of March has extended the lease for the 767’s (apparently at Boeing’s insistence) for a further 6 months till October 2013.

All Nippon Airways, which has 17 Dreamliners in its fleet says it has lost 15.4 million of sales revenues just in January. But ANA has kept its profit forecast for the fiscal year through March unchanged at about $44 million.

All Nippon has not asked Boeing for compensation linked to the grounded 787s but will discuss the issue once the total financial effect is more clear, said the executive vice president, Kiyoshi Tonomoto, according to Reuters.

The battery problem has yet to be resolved but there was further evidence that the cells are prone to overheating and thermal runaways.

Bangkok Post: On January 16, the 50 Dreamliners in service around the world were grounded after a battery fire on a Japan Airlines plane parked in Boston, and battery smoke on an All Nippon Airways flight forced an emergency landing. On Tuesday, a Japanese safety board official said that investigators found a battery on the ANA flight that initially was believed to be intact had also been damaged. Detailed examination of the auxiliary power unit battery revealed that two of its eight cells were misshapen.

One market-matching family

The Airbus A350 family . image airbus.com

In the meantime Airbus has invoked Plan B and decided to drop the lithium-ion batteries for the A 350 so as not to jeopardise the intoduction of the aircraft in 2014. With the Dreamliner delays and teething problems, Airbus has a golden opportinity to break into the Dreamliner market with a timely introduction of the A350.

Reuters:  Airbus has dropped lithium-ion batteries of the type that forced the grounding of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and will use traditional nickel-cadmium batteries in its crucially important next passenger jet, the A350.

The European planemaker said on Friday it had taken the decision to adopt the batteries used on existing models such as the A380 superjumbo in order to prevent delays in the A350’s entry to service next year. ….. 

“We want to mature the lithium-ion technology but we are making this decision today to protect the A350’s entry-into-service schedule,” an Airbus spokeswoman said. ….

The A350 is due to enter service in the second half of 2014 compared with an initial target of 2012 when it was launched as Europe’s answer to the lightweight 787 Dreamliner. ….

….. Airbus will use the lithium-ion batteries for a maiden flight in mid-year and early flight trials but switch to traditional batteries in time for certification and delivery. …

The lithium-ion battery industry is concerned but not unduly so, since the market for aircraft batteries is just a tiny portion of their market.

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