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20 April 2013 Written by 

Boeing’s engineers in Addis to fix Dreamliners

-    Ethiopian to seek compensation

Boeing’s senior engineers arrived in Addis Ababa on Monday to upgrade Ethiopian Airline’s Dreamliner aircraft.

Following the fire accidents on board Dreamliner aircraft the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered all carriers operating the Dreamliner fleet to ground their B787 aircraft in mid-January. Boeing’s engineers presumed that the fire accidents were caused by the overheating of the lithium-ion battery of the aircraft.

The launch customers of the Dreamliner aircraft, including Ethiopian Airlines, were forced to ground their B787 fleet for the past three months. Officials of FAA were expected to approve the modification work on the batteries of the Dreamliner on Monday. Consequently, 30 senior engineers and technicians of Boeing arrived in Addis Ababa to fix the battery of Ethiopian Dreamliners. However, the FAA postponed its approval for next week.

Executives of Ethiopian Airlines told The Reporter that since FAA has postponed the announcement, Boeing’s technical team was unable to commence work on the batteries. FAA is now expected to announce its approval next week. Until then Boeing’s technical team is upgrading other parts of Ethiopian Dreamliners as of last Tuesday.

According to Ethiopian officials, it will take six days to fix each battery. It will take a total of 24 days to fix all the batteries of Ethiopian four Dreamliner aircraft. If everything goes as planned Ethiopian will fly one of its Dreamliners to Johannesburg-first flight by a commercial airline after the grounding of Dreamliners.

Boeing’s technical team is led by Denis Lucas, head of Boeing’s Addis Ababa office. Rob Faye, director, international sales, also arrived in Addis Ababa on Monday. Randy Tinseth, VP marketing, was supposed to arrive here on Monday but his trip was postponed since FAA delayed its approval. Randy and Boeing’s corporate communication head, Adam Morgan, will come to Addis Ababa next week to witness Ethiopian B787 first flight after the modification work is done. Media fanfare will be organized with the view to building the tarnished image of the B787. If FAA approved Boeing’s modification work, all Dreamliner Fleets would resume operation at the end of this month or by the first week of May. Ethiopian will be the first commercial carrier to take its Dreamliner back to the sky to be followed by All Nippon Airways of Japan.

At a press conference organised in the sideline of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Africa Aviation Day on Tuesday, Ethiopian CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam, said that it is difficult to tell the exact date when Dreamliner will take off.

“We have incurred costs due to the grounding of our Dreamliner fleet. Since our main focus is on the possibility that the aircraft would resume operation, we did not yet calculate how much we lost. We are currently busy with the modification work,” Tewolde told journalists.

Reliable sources told The Reporter that the management of Ethiopian will calculate the cost it incurred and file compensation claim to Boeing. “It is going to be a complicated issue. Boeing’s executives would not simply accept our claim. They may argue that it is FAA, not Boeing, that ordered the grounding of the aircraft. But we also have strong argument points. Since Ethiopian and Boeing have a 50-year strong relation we will settle the issue amicably,” sources said. 

Ethiopian was the first African carrier to place an order for ten B787-8 jetliners valued at 1.5 billion dollars in February 2005. Last August Ethiopian was the third airline next to All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines to take delivery of B787 aircraft. It received four of this aircraft and the fifth one was expected to arrive in March.