China Southern Airlines

China Southern still on board Boeing's Dreamliner

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 4:19am

China Southern Airlines has no immediate plan to cancel orders of the incident-prone Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners but that will change if systemic problems are found.

The assessment came after Japan's two leading airlines, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, grounded all B787s yesterday due to glitches, mainly in the plane's electrical system.

"If the FAA [US Federal Aviation Administration] finds that there are failures in the design of the B787, we will ditch the order without doubt," a China Southern executive said. "For now, we don't have plans to do so."

The Guangzhou-based carrier ordered 10 B787-8s, with the first plane expected to be delivered in the second half of next year. Hainan Airlines is expected to receive the first of its 10 787-8s in March. Air China, which has swapped its order of 15 B787-8 to B787-9s, will not receive its first plane until the end of 2015. Hong Kong Airlines, which is controlled by the HNA Group, signed a memorandum of understanding for an option to buy up to 35 B787-9s but the carrier has not confirmed the order.

An ANA B787 made an emergency landing yesterday, the latest incident in the recent series of mishaps for the carbon-composite plane. The FAA and Boeing responded by launching a joint investigation into the design and production of the aircraft.

China Southern needs long-haul aircraft to fuel its growing international network.

The carrier could replace its order with other long-haul aircraft such as the B747-8, as long as Boeing agreed.

China Eastern Airlines swapped orders on 24 B787-8s for 45 B737-800s in October 2011.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China is still in the process of certifying the B787.

No mainland carriers can fly the aircraft until the process is complete. "It's more of a political issue than a safety issue," an airline executive said.

Beijing would only validate the B787 if the FAA also agreed to certify China's home-grown C919 aircraft, the executive added. The C919 is scheduled to have its first fight test next year.

"I am not particularly worried about the safety of the B787 as all new planes have issues in their early operations," Hong Kong Airlines chief operating officer Sun Jianfeng said.

"All the glitches seem to come from the design of a lithium battery and could be fixed."