The Mystery Of Air India’s Grounded 787

While there’s no denying that Air India is a lackluster airline, I do think they’re sometimes unfairly portrayed by the media, at least in India. The Indian media seems to love to report every little Air India incident, when a similar situation wouldn’t even get mentioned elsewhere in the world. For example, there was a recent report that an Air India flight between London and Delhi last December was delayed by a few hours, and they somehow linked that to a staff party. Somehow that’s worth reporting… 10 months later!

So I’m writing this post not to spread a rumor, but just because I find it really interesting as someone that’s fascinated by the business side of the airline industry.

Bangalore Aviation has a post about Air India’s most mysterious 787. This particular Air India 787, with tail number VT-ANI, was delivered in May of 2012. Per FlightAware, the last flight it took was on April 21, 2014.

Air-India-787

The post asks whether Air India is stripping a brand new 787 for parts, based on pictures they received of the plane in a hangar in Mumbai. In the pictures, the plane has engines and the radome removed.

Of course it’s normal for planes to undergo maintenance whereby parts are removed, so in and of itself that isn’t unusual. And it’s also normal for airlines to intercharge aircraft parts. So the real mystery here isn’t the missing parts, but rather why a brand new jet has been grounded for six months.

Assuming the rumor is true, why could Air India be using a brand new 787 for parts? Presumably because they’d have to pay cash for new parts, while they’re financing the 787, so from a cash flow perspective it might be “cheaper” for them short term.

But the thought of using a brand new, $100+ million dollar plane for parts is just… wow.

Anyone have another theory as to why the plane has been grounded for six months?

Comments

  1. http://flightaware.com/photos/view/3052934-51ae738b795dbec27f922958a181cb41af7717f4/aircraft/VTANI/sort/date/page/1

    There is a picture of it from Two months ago at Frankfurt, I guess someone just waited a long time to post the picture. Air India did scrap a 3.8-year old 77LR/F for parts earlier this year. Because of “hidden damage during a heavy landing” at London Heathrow. And we wonder why this airline is doing so bad…

    http://www.bangaloreaviation.com/2014/03/air-india-cannibalises-777-named-maharashtra-shivajis-airport.html

  2. Looks like there are others reporting on the rumor, for a daily industry briefing I receive:
    Air India suspected of stripping one of its early B787s, serial 36277, for parts.

  3. From another site..

    An Air India spokesperson sent us an e-mail and said “Aircraft VT-ANI is currently undergoing reliability improvement retrofit (modification) and will resume operations in November.”

  4. This is one of the earlier (crappier) 787s built, so I imagine it’s being retrofitted by Boeing to try and improve performance.

  5. “Reliability improvement retrofit” = “Fixing the damn plane so it doesn’t fall out of the sky.”

  6. They are being stripped to use as parts for other aircraft. Boeing won’t finance any new parts that AI need so they stripped off bits they need for others.

    I can even report that the interiors have been stripped as well as parts for other aircraft as well.

    Sad world of bad management.

  7. It’s still under warranty:

    In conjunction with certain product sales, we provide warranties that cover factors such as non-conformance to specifications and defects in material and design. The majority of our warranties are issued by our Commercial Airplanes segment. Generally, aircraft sales are accompanied by a three to four-year standard warranty for systems, accessories, equipment, parts, and software manufactured by us or manufactured to certain standards under our authorization.

    http://www.boeing.com/assets/pdf/companyoffices/financial/finreports/annual/2014/annual_report.pdf

  8. I wonder if this has something to do with shoddy build quality like Arcanum points out, perhaps one of these early builds delivered to AI came from the Carolina facility instead of the Everett facility… which this report covered brilliantly: http://www.aljazeera.com/investigations/boeing787/ #BrokenDreams … still seems crazy if AI is indeed stripping these planes for parts. I mean its not like they are interchangeable with other planes, even other Boeings. wonder if they just created a secondary black market for 787 parts for other operators/carriers.

  9. Purchased for reverse engineering. Resell the engines, pick apart the rest. Not a bad deal for the tech transfer to India.

  10. Isn’t this the one going from Mel-Del that had the rapid decompression “incident” back in Feb/Mar this year. They are getting harder to avoid even LAN is putting a 787 on my favourite route!

  11. Sigh. I so wish to see positive news for my national carrier. But every time i end up reading depressing stuff.

    One can always hope……..

  12. @Troy, we posted the email from the Air India spokesperson as soon as we received it, and we posted it ahead of our story, not at the end, and I asked the same question many of the readers are here.
    —-
    “An Air India spokesperson sent us an e-mail and said “Aircraft VT-ANI is currently undergoing reliability improvement retrofit (modification) and will resume operations in November.”

    This is nice to hear.

    Can someone with subject matter expertise please explain what is the retro-fit being done? Why is this specific to only this aircraft? Why does this retrofit need over six months?”

  13. @Joseph, the Boeing 777-200LR VT-ALH flew on 9th Jan, finally. We wrote about it. http://www.bangaloreaviation.com/2015/01/air-india-flies-grounded-boeing-777-31-months-ahead-delivery-etihad.html

    Sources confirmed, that Air India did in fact use VT-ALH as a Christmas tree to bring the 5 LRs (VT-ALA, B, C, D, E) sold to Etihad. http://www.bangaloreaviation.com/2014/03/photos-etihad-starts-taking-delivery-air-indias-777-200lrs.html

    And the moment we received photographic evidence of the repairs to VT-ALH we wrote that too. http://www.bangaloreaviation.com/2014/08/exclusive-photos-air-india-repairs-newest-boeing-777-200lr-vt-alh-stripped-for-parts.html

  14. Ben aka Lucky, there are no shortage of leaks by Air India staffers trying to ingratiate themselves with an equally desperate media. Of course, certain media led by the Times of India, and the Daily Mail use a tabloid and “scare-mongering” sensationalist approach.

    This gets compounded by the lack of any official response to any story. When we reported the stripping of parts from the 777-200LR VT-ALH, we waited over 36 hours to multiple emails, calls and SMS texts to the Chairman and Managing Director, and the head of corp comm. After the story was published and went viral, the local corp comm person kept calling and hounding me to take down the story, trying to use all types of emotional blackmail.

    Despite my asking them to clarify the situation they did not. All that the local guy was interested in was being able to show his bureaucratic bosses he managed to get us to publish their statement.

    As you so rightly say in your post …….. wow!!

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