Qantas partner Japan Airlines (JAL) has axed next month's launch of a daily Boeing 787 service between Sydney and Tokyo due to safety concerns over flying the aircraft near thunderstorms.
Japan Airlines planned the inaugural Australian flight of its Boeing 787 for December 2nd, however a JAL spokesman has told Australian Business Traveller "I can confirm that we have had to delay the introduction of 787 on the Sydney route."
"At this stage we have no idea how long it will be before we are able to introduce the 787 on the Sydney route."
The airline will continue to run its daily JL771/772 service between Sydney and Tokyo/Narita on the current Boeing 777-200 "until further notice", he added.
JAL has also pulled the Boeing 787 from several other domestic and international routes following a warning from Boeing that all 787s powered by General Electrics' GEnx engines to avoid flying within 90 kilometres of thunderstorms, which are commonplace in certain regions during the summer months.
"As we have always navigated along routes while avoiding thunderstorm clouds etc, safety in operations has been ensured in this regard" JAL explained in a statement.
However, under Boeing's advice, "we will be required to avoid active clouds of this kind at a wider range than before, and consequently, we have found that depending on weather conditions on the day of the flight, the possibility of significant delays and cancellations would increase if we avoided these cloud zones on some of our routes."
At issue is a build-up of ice crystals in the engine's front fan, which has to date caused a temporary loss of thrust in six GEnx-powered Boeings (one Dreamliner and five 747-8s) between April and November.
"The aviation industry is experiencing a growing number of ice-crystal icing encounters in recent years as the population of the large commercial airliners has grown, particularly in tropical regions of the world" a GE spokesman told international news agency Reuters.
Boeing and GE are working on software changes to the engine control system which should eliminate the problem.
The Boeing 787s flown by Jetstar and Air India are also fitted with GEnx engines, and while Jetstar doesn't expect the warning will have a significant impact on its schedule, the airline says it will "follow the recommendations of Boeing or regulators as they arise."
Air India has yet to release any comment on the issue and how this may affect its daily flight between Sydney/Melbourne and New Delhi.
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