Thu February 21, 2013

As Dreamliner Review Continues, New DIA Route To Tokyo On Hold

United Airlines is postponing the start of its Denver to Tokyo route flying the 787 Dreamliner in response to the FAA and NTSB review of the aircraft.

United had planned to use the new Dreamliners for the route which was seen as a huge win for the City of Denver. City official and the Denver International Airport had been working on landing a flight to Tokyo for over a decade when it was announced in May 2011.

In a statement Mayor Michael Hancock says the city, and airline, are committed to the international route.

"United Airlines, the City and County of Denver and all of our partners remain committed to the long-term success of this new nonstop flight. Because of the boundless economic-development opportunities it will create, the service carries great value to Denver, the metro area and all of Colorado. Together, we look forward to the doors it will open to the global marketplace."

The Denver Post reported in early November 2012 the 787’s fuel efficiency made the new transpacific flight from Denver possible.

United will open the first nonstop route between Denver and any Asian market when it beginsDenver-to-Tokyo service April 1, an endeavor that is economically feasible with the Dreamliner's help.

"If we flew the 777 on that route, we'd have our head handed to us," said Jeff Smisek, United's chief executive, aboard the inaugural flight. "In terms of costs, it would never be worth it."

For the next few months,United plans to fly the 787 between its domestic hubs— including Denver International Airport — prior to launching its first international route from Houston to Lagos, Nigeria, next month.

However, the 787 has faced problems since entering commercial service, and NPR reports what ultimately forced an FFA/NTSB review included overheating lithium-ion batteries and reported fuel leaks.

"Federal regulators say they are ordering a comprehensive review of the critical systems of Boeing's 787s, the aircraft maker's newest and most technologically advanced plane, after a fire and a fuel leak earlier this week," The Associated Press writes.

Reuters adds that FAA officials will announce the decision at a news conference later this morning, "according to a person familiar with the matter."

According to The Wall Street Journal, "the review won't ground planes or halt production, but the FAA has broad latitude to take action as a result of any findings. That could range from ordering new production procedures to revising designs of some electric components, which potentially could prompt further production delays and additional costs for Boeing."

The news comes as there's word of "another two incidents" aboard Dreamliners. USA Today writes that "on Friday ... an All Nippon Airways aircraft suffered a crack to its windscreen during a flight in Japan and an oil leak was found coming from the engine of a separate plane after it landed at an airport in southern Japan.".

United Airlines is unsure when the planes will be back in service, however in a statement company spokeswoman Christen David says a new start date for the Denver/Tokyo route will now be May 12th.

“We remain committed to flying from Denver to Narita with the 787, and we will launch the route after the aircraft re-enters service.  We want to thank Mayor Hancock, Aviation Director Kim Day and our other Denver partners who have been instrumental in introducing this route.”