Ethiopian Airlines, the first African airline to operate the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, took delivery of its first aircraft from Boeing in a ceremony in Seattle yesterday.
After Japan’s All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, Ethiopian is the third airline to receive the Dreamliner. It has ten on order, which will be delivered through 2016.
“Today begins the first day in a new era of flying for our passengers and brings us even closer to our vision for the future, Vision 2025,” said Tewolde GebreMariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines. “We are pleased to be the first airline in the world outside Japan to receive this technologically advanced aircraft. We have been waiting for this airplane and now that we officially have it and will show it to the world, I can say with pride, it was worth the wait. This airplane is going to move Ethiopian Airlines to the forefront of aviation leadership around the globe.”
The 787 Dreamliner is composed of light-weight composites and features numerous system, engine and aerodynamic advancements making it more efficient to operate compared with its competition. Ethiopian Airlines’ aircraft use GEnx-1B64 engines and are financed with a US Export-Import Bank loan guaranteed by JP Morgan. The first aircraft is configured with 270 seats in a two-class configuration, with 24 in “cloud nine” business and 246 in economy.
“Today marks not just another milestone for Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines, but a new beginning in our 65-year partnership,” said Van Rex Gallard, vice president of Sales for Africa, Latin America, & Caribbean, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Ethiopian Airlines continues to show their strong leadership in African aviation and their growing presence around the globe. Being the first in Africa and one of the first in the world further confirms their position globally.”
After taking delivery, Ethiopian will fly its Dreamliner to Washington DC today where the aircraft will be on display and is expected to be visited by VIP guests and media.
The aircraft will then make its inaugural trip to Africa tomorrow with its first revenue flight from Dulles International Airport to Bole Addis Ababa International Airport. Ethiopian will begin daily flights between Washington and Addis Ababa using the 787 on 20 September, replacing a Boeing 777-200LR.
Ethiopian Airways is the first African airline to operate the 777-200LR, was the first to order the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and the first to order the 777 Freighter. Ethiopian Airlines currently operates a fleet of 737, 757, 767 and 777 aircraft in passenger service and a 757, MD-11 and 747 in cargo operations.
Last month Ethiopian Airlines ordered another 777-200LR (Longer Range) Worldliner from Boeing, adding to its fleet of five 777-200LRs.
Ethiopian has around 40 aircraft on order as it implements its vigorous fleet renewal programme. The carrier intends expanding its jet fleet to 112 by 2025. In February this year Bombardier announced that Ethiopian Airlines had ordered five Q400 NextGen turboprop airliners. Two of the five will be operated by Ethiopian Airlines and three by its affiliate, ASKY Airlines of Togo. The order will expand Ethiopian’s Q400 NextGen fleet to 13.
In December 2011 Ethiopian joined the Star Alliance and plans to strengthen its route network in Singapore, South Korea and China. It is also planning to open new routes to the United States and Canada.
Boeing’s Dreamliner has attracted attention for its advanced design, but has not been without its share of problems. All Nippon Airways (ANA) last month grounded five of its 11 Dreamliners after tests revealed a risk of engine corrosion. The glitch was the latest disruption to Boeing’s flagship jet as the company recovers from a series of production delays. Early this month the airline said all its 787s were back in service after the carrier changed a component on their Trent 1000 engines.
Japan Airlines, which has four Boeing 787s in its fleet, uses alternative engines built by General Electric and therefore does not face problems similar to those affecting ANA.
The grounding of ANA’s five Dreamliners is but one of several problems. In November, the carrier reported a landing gear problem weeks after taking delivery of the first US$194 million Dreamliner.
Last month a Dreamliner was being tested in Charleston, South Carolina, when a shaft in its GEnx engine fractured, causing debris to fall from the engine and spark a grass fire near the runway. The US National Transportation Safety Board said last Wednesday that the failure was a contained incident of the sort that does not normally pose an immediate safety risk. “This design feature generally does not pose immediate safety risks.”