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US aircraft manufacturer Boeing has asked Air India to avoid flying its Dreamliner planes near thunderstorms as it enhanced the risk of icing on engines and the airline has changed its operating procedures accordingly.
"Boeing has issued an advisory to Air India to avoid flying the B-787 (Dreamliner) aircraft near high-level thunderstorms due to an increased risk of icing on the General Electric GEnx engines used on it," Minister of State for Civil Aviation G M Siddeshwara said in reply to a question in Lok Sabha.
He said the problem was caused by a build-up of ice crystals behind the main fan of the engine, causing a brief loss of thrust.
In view of this, Boeing has modified the operating procedures for Air India for the B-787 planes.
The new procedure fully complied with all operating standards and does not compromise flight safety, he said, adding that it would reduce the risk of icing on the engines and enhanced safety.
Icing occurs when supercooled water freezes on impact with any part of the external structure of an aircraft during flight. It has the potential to reduce a plane's performance, lead to loss of lift, stall the aircraft and result in loss of control.
To another question, Siddeshwara said about USD 1,805 million has been spent on 16 Dreamliners purchased from Boeing since 2012-13 till date. While six of these planes were delivered on 2012-13, seven were inducted in 2013-14 and three so far in 2014-15.
He said Air India subsidiary, Air India Express Board has approved the leasing of up to eight Boeing 737 aircraft over the current and next financial year for induction.
On the national carrier's performance, Siddeshwara said there have been improvements in its operational and financial parameters in 2013-14 compared to 2012-13.
The net loss declined from Rs 5,490 crore to Rs 5,389 crore in this period, while cash losses fell from Rs 3,647 crore to Rs 3,372 crore by 7.5 per cent.
While passenger revenue increased from Rs 12,495 crore in 2012-13 to Rs 14,300 crore the next year, the total operating revenue also rose from Rs 16,072 crore to Rs 19,230 crore.
EBIDTA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) improved almost 300 per cent from Rs 191.67 crore in 2012-13 to Rs 770.94 crore, Siddeshwara said.