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Chinese cloud over Air India Dreamliners.

THE extremely narrow flight corridor being enforced by China in its airspace may force Air India ( AI) to pull out its Boeing 787 Dreamliners from the New Delhi- Tokyo route. AI has informed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation ( DGCA) that it has reworked the flight path procedure to avoid the dangerous cumulonimbus clouds, which pervade the Chinese airspace and cause ice crystals to accumulate on the engine when the plane is above 30,000 feet.

However, the DGCA is not convinced because Japan Airlines ( JAL) has already withdrawn its Dreamliners from the Tokyo- New Delhi route due to the problem of crystal formation.

DGCA chief Arun Mishra told M AIL T ODAY that he would meet AI officials this week to look into the matter.

AI sources said that Dreamliners must deviate 60 miles to evade the cumulonimbus clouds, which are heavily ionised and unsafe for flying.

However, since China allows only a narrow corridor of 20 miles for commercial flights in its airspace, the planes cannot make this deviation.

This problem causes loss of thrust in engines at high altitudes as ice crystals form right behind the engine's front fan and impede air flow, which is necessary for thrust.

" Air India has told us that they have developed a new procedure for flying their Dreamliners on the New Delhi- Tokyo route. We will look into it," Mishra said.

If AI fails to convince the DGCA, it would have to stop flying the Dreamliners on this route and redeploy the fuel- guzzling Boeing 777, which it wants to phase out.

According to sources, DGCA is likely to ask Air India to discontinue Dreamliner flights on the New Delhi- Tokyo route till Boeing provides them the upgrade to deal with the cumulonimbus clouds. " Boeing has assured that they will provide a necessary upgrade in the next few months.

That would resolve the ice problem," Mishra added. AI chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan did not respond to text messages and phone calls from MAIL TODAY . US plane maker Boeing told airlines last month to avoid flying the 787s within 50 nautical miles of thunderstorms to avoid formation of ice crystals. The alert came after a few such incidents were reported on the New Delhi- Tokyo route. Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel had said that the company had already alerted its customers who operate some GE- powered engines on 747- 8 and 787 models.

" To reduce chances of ice crystal conditions, Boeing recommends that operators fly, at least, 50 nautical miles from thunderstorms that may contain ice crystals," Birtel added.

China's narrow corridor has become a concern for pilots after it constituted the Air Defence Identification Zone, which covers most of the East China Sea.

The area consists of airspace from about, and including, the Japanese Senkaku Islands ( known as the Diaoyu Islands in mainland China) north to South Korean- claimed Socotra Rock ( known as Suyan Jiao in China).

A senior pilot with a leading Indian carrier said that European countries, Australia, US and Canada are far more liberal than the Chinese in giving a free deviation space.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Dec 5, 2013
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