30 September 2012

Ethiopian Replaces Defective Dreamliner Engine

A day after its arrival, the eagerly awaited Dreamliner had taken a round trip visit to Mount Kilimanjaro without landing, with invited guests and media abroad.

The engine for the Boeing 787 aircraft, which had just been delivered to Ethiopian Airlines in August 2012, had to be replaced because of technical problems a week ago, Fortune learnt.

The next generation General Electric (GEnx) engine that the Dreamliner uses had a problem with its hydraulics and oil leakage, according to sources.

This engine which had its first ran in 2006 by General Electric, was touted to be light weight, fuel efficient, and environmentally friendly reducing carbon emissions.

It is used in Boeing's B777 and B787 aircraft along with Rolls Royce's Trent 1000 engine.

General Electric is an American technology and financial services company. Its Aviation segment produces jet engines, aerospace systems and equipment for use in military and commercial aircraft.

The replacement of the Dreamliner engine had taken place at the wide body hangar of the Ethiopian Airlines, where the large B-787 and B-777 aircraft are serviced. There are two other hanagars under the national carrier.

American and Japanese technicians from General Electric had flown in to Addis to replace the engine, according to sources close to the issue. Three trained Ethiopian technicians had also assisted in replacing the engine. The process to replace the engine started on Friday, September 21, 2012.

Since Ethiopian had a warranty for the engines the replacement did not cost it anything. The defective engine is still lying in the hangar, according to sources.

Ethiopian Airlines had become the first carrier in Africa and the third in the world, after two Japanese airlines, to own the Dreamliner, when it received the first of 10 B-787 Dreamliner orders it had placed.

The delivery had been eagerly awaited since the 269 seater double isle, long range fuel saving aircraft that Boeing had launched in 2004, had faced a series of delays before being rolled out of the assembly line in 2007.

Ethiopian which had placed its orders in 2005 as part of its vision 2010 plan to become a one billion dollar company, increase passenger size and aggressively increase its fleet, was expected to receive its first Dreamliner in 2008.

When it finally arrived a month ago, the Dreamliner was welcomed with much fanfare, a ceremony in where high government officials were invited.

It had flown to several destinations before a problem with the engine was discovered.

After replacing the engine and conducting a test flight, the plane was immediately back in operation flying passengers to Entebe, Uganda, Sunday September 23, 2012. It had since flown to Washington DC on September 24.

Also Ethiopian is not the first Airlines to encounter a problem with the GEnx engine. In July 2012 a flight test for a Dreamliner has resulted in debris flying out of the aircraft, and a small fire accident due to a problem with the GEnx engine.

Another aircraft in China, a Boeing 747 with a similar engine, had lost power in September 2012.

The US National Transport Safety Board is currently conducting an investigation on the engine product.

Ethiopian's Dreamliner is not the only one to have a problem with its engine. All Nippon Airways (ANA), which was the first to order the Dreamliner, had grounded three of the 11 Dreamliner aircraft it had received due to engine defect, although it used a different engine supplied by Rolls Royce.

Ethiopian is expecting receipt of its second Dreamliner in a couple of weeks.

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