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Dreamliners still on track, says Qantas

17 Jan 2013 THE AGE - MATT O'SULLIVAN



QANTAS insists it is still on track to receive the first of its 787 Dreamliners in the second half of this year, despite two Japanese airlines grounding their fleets of the state-of-the-art aircraft.

In a blow to Boeing's new flagship plane, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines grounded their 787 fleets on Wednesday after an emergency landing by one of the passenger jets in Japan.

Despite a spate of problems with Dreamliners recently, Qantas said it still expected its budget offshoot, Jetstar, to take delivery of the group's first 787s in the second half.

The airline remains confident Boeing will resolve any problems before the planes are due to arrive in Australia. "Boeing has kept the Qantas group fully informed about the performance of the 787," a spokesman said.

ANA grounded all its 17 Dreamliners while JAL suspended 787 flights scheduled for Wednesday. One of ANA's Dreamliners made an emergency landing after an instrument indicated a battery error, which triggered emergency warnings to the pilots.

The emergency landing comes a week after an electrical fire aboard one of JAL's Dreamliners while parked at Boston's Logan Airport. US regulators have begun a review of the design and manufacture of the 787s.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association's president, Paul Cousins, welcomed the Japanese airlines' decision to ground their Dreamliner fleets.

"It is good to see an airline take a proactive stance. They should be applauded for doing it," he said.

Mr Cousins said he expected that the latest problems besetting the 787 program to have an impact on the delivery of planes to airlines such as Qantas.

"I reckon Qantas will be on the phone to Boeing asking what is going on. At the moment there is no doubt that [the 787 program] is having teething problems that are out of the ordinary," he said.

Apart from the 15 787-8 Dreamliners destined for Jetstar, Qantas has purchase rights and options for 50 of the longer-range 787-9 aircraft, the first of which will not arrive until 2016.

Meanwhile, the competition regulator is expected to release as early as Thursday a decision on whether to allow Qantas and Emirates to talk to each other about pricing and flight capacity while they await a final ruling on their planned alliance.

The airlines reapplied for "interim authorisation" in late December after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission gave tentative approval for their deal.