LAN working with Boeing on 787 reliability issues

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Chilean carrier LAN is working with Boeing and other suppliers on reliability issues around the airline's Boeing 787 Dreamliners, as the airline launches its first North American flights with the aircraft.

The Oneworld carrier, which was the fourth operator to receive the 787, has three 787s in its fleet. It deployed the aircraft type on a North American route for the first time on 2 January, with a non-stop flight between Los Angeles and Santiago.

LATAM's vice president of fleet projects Justin Siegel tells Flightglobal that the 787's reliability rate falls below that of the airline's other aircraft, but adds that this was expected.

LAN completed a merger with Brazilian carrier TAM in 2012 to form LATAM.

Siegel declines to specify the reliability rate, but says there have been issues related to the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines on LAN's 787s, as well as with the aircraft's electrical and cooling systems. Such issues have led to flight delays and equipment changes before flights, he adds.

"We are seeing new system components that are being replaced more than we expect," he says. "[They] are related to the new technology of the airplane. And that's something we foresaw."

Siegel emphasises that the reliability issues were not surprising, given that the 787 is a new aircraft type. "No one wants to have a low-reliability airplane, we expected it, but we also expect Boeing and the OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] to put the plans in place to drive up the reliability," says Siegel.

Fellow 787 operator United Airlines has delayed the launch of some international flights with the aircraft, citing a need to work with Boeing to improve the 787's reliability. On 4 December 2012, a United 787 diverted to New Orleans while performing a Houston Intercontinental-Newark flight following the failure of an electrical generator.

LAN expects to operate 12 787s by end-2014. It will take delivery of its fourth and fifth aircraft in mid-2013, says Siegel. The airline has an order for 22 787-8s and 10 787-9s.