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Air NZ leases planes as Dreamliner engine woes bite

December 12, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Air New Zealand has wet-leased two aircraft – taking the planes fully crewed – to help keep its flights on schedule after two of its new B787-9 Dreamliner aircraft suffered engine problems and the rest are having their engines checked.

Two Air New Zealand flights operated by B787-9s, one to Tokyo and one to Buenos Aires, had to return to Auckland Airport last week after hitting engine problems soon after take off.

The airline’s B787-9 Dreamliners are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines. Air NZ has been forced, in the run-up to Christmas, to ground three of its B787s due to a worldwide shortage of that type of engine.

Photos of one of the engines, published in New Zealand, show damage to numerous turbine blades at the rear.

Air New Zealand has confirmed that Rolls-Royce has advised “that some of the Trent 1000 engines would need maintenance sooner than previously indicated”, meaning they need to be hauled out of service while that is done.

The airline confirmed yesterday it had leased two aircraft to help maintain its timetable “during the unscheduled maintenance of some Rolls-Royce engines on its 787-9 fleet”.

Air New Zealand’s first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, (designated ZK-NZE) shown here landing at Perth Airport in 2014. This is the aircraft that struck an engine problem last week on a  flight to Japan. 

The New Zealand carrier currently operates 11 B787-9 aircraft (it was the launch customer for the type) and all are new by world standards. The first one to join its fleet (pictured above) was handed over to the airline mid-September 2014.

Qantas also recently received, in October, a new B787-9 Dreamliner, the first of eight it has ordered. The Qantas planes, however, use a different make of engine, the GEnx-1B. Those engines are made by US manufacturer GE Aviation, an Ohio-based subsidiary of General Electric.

Air New Zealand has chartered an Airbus 330 and Airbus 340 from European company Hi Fly, which are expected to begin operating some Auckland-Sydney and all Auckland-Perth services by next week.

Air New Zealand general manager customer experience Anita Hawthorne says the airline is working hard to minimise the impact on customers caused by the unscheduled Rolls-Royce engine maintenance.

“Unfortunately, around 4500 customers have been affected by international flight delays and a small number of cancellations over the past week. Once these two additional aircraft are in service we will be able to operate a near normal timetable,” Ms Hawthorne says.

“We are acutely mindful of how important travel is to so many of our customers at this time of year and we are committed to ensuring we connect people with family, friends and the experiences they are looking forward to. Equally, it is a critical time of year for our cargo customers, so giving them certainty to be able to continue to move goods internationally is important.”

Hawthorne says customers travelling on the leased aircraft will notice some difference in product and service style.

“The aircraft will be operated by pilots and crew from Hi Fly under the oversight of Air New Zealand. This was a much quicker path to get the aircraft into our network than going through a lengthy certification and training programme for our own people, who are not trained to operate the Airbus widebody aircraft.

“Air New Zealand’s union partners have been extremely understanding of this situation and share our commitment to take the necessary steps to maintain the flight schedule over this important Christmas and summer period. We thank them for their support.”

Written by Peter Needham

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