New Delhi: Air India has launched test flights of its Dreamliner aircraft, which have been fitted with new battery packs following battery fire incidents in January, as the first of these sophisticated planes were flown from Mumbai to Delhi via Ahmedabad.
By Friday, two of these Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes would be test-flown several times daily between Delhi and Amritsar so that the pilots and cabin crew get the experience of several landings and take-offs, airline officials said.
The national carrier has already announced that it would launch Dreamliner flights from next week on the domestic sector and start international operations by the third week of May.
Aviation regulator DGCA had earlier this week allowed resumption of operations of the Dreamliners by issuing an order lifting the ban on their flights in India.
The planes, fitted with the new battery packs by Boeing and Air India engineers in Mumbai, are being ferried to Delhi after making an additional landing at Ahmedabad.
"Our test flights, take-offs and landings will be over and above the regulatory requirements of DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation). These series of trials will continue over the next few days," the officials said.
All the six aircraft are likely to be ready by early next week, they said, adding that the pilots and the cabin crew were also regaining their experience in the process.
A team of Boeing engineers and those from Air India has been fitting new lithium ion batteries. The battery sparks in two of these aircraft owned by Japanese airlines had led to the grounding of 50 Dreamliners worldwide on January 17.
Air India has ordered 27 Dreamliners as part of a multi- billion dollar deal in 2005. It received the first plane last September and now has six, with the remaining 21 due for delivery by 2016.
Test flights of the Boeing 787s are also being conducted by eight airlines across the globe whose aircraft are being fitted with new battery packs approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration.
Other airlines, which own these planes, are All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, United Airlines (US), LOT Polish Airlines and Qatar Airways.
The national carrier plans to induct eight more Dreamliners this year and plans to launch new flights to Melbourne, Sydney, Milan, Moscow, Kazakhstan and Japan with these Boeing 787 aircraft.
Air India would be conducting test flights of Dreamliner aircraft till May 14.
"From May 15, we would be deploying one of the planes on Delhi-Dubai-Delhi sector. We would be launching Delhi-London- Delhi service from May 22 and Delhi-Paris-Delhi from May 30," a senior airline official said.
Air India would get its seventh Boeing 787 in the end of May or in the first week of June, and it plans to operate Delhi-Seoul-Delhi flight with it.
He said the national carrier would launch its Delhi-Hong Kong-Delhi service in August with the eighth Dreamliner, which it would get by July.
In August, the airline plans to launch Delhi-Melbourne- Delhi and Delhi-Sydney-Delhi flights with ninth and 10th Dreamliner, while in October it would begin Mumbai-London- Mumbai services with the 11th aircraft.
Air India would launch flights from Delhi to Kazakhstan and Milan in October with their 12th plane and Delhi-Tokyo- Osaka-Delhi with the 13th aircraft in November and tri-weekly flights between Delhi and Moscow in December, the official said.
The national carrier has also decided to strengthen its domestic services and plans to launch Delhi-Kullu-Delhi and Delhi-Dharamshala-Delhi from May 15. The flights would be operated with an ATR aircraft.
"The national carrier is also launching third flight to Dubai from Delhi from May 15. It would be operated with Airbus 320 aircraft," the official said, adding that the flight would depart from Delhi at 16:30 hours.