Virgin Atlantic finally has a functioning Boeing 787 fleet

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Virgin Atlantic finally has a functioning Boeing 787 fleet, after three years.

Cornonavirus has taken the focus of the airline industry away from Boeing and its 737MAX issues.  The 737MAX had, itself, taken attention away from the other major aircraft mess of the last decade – the portion of the Boeing 787 fleet powered by faulty Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.

Virgin Atlantic was lucky in that the Boeing 787 accounted for ‘only’ 35% of its fleet.  Norwegian was pushed to the edge of bankruptcy by its reliance on the Boeing 787 and Boeing 737MAX.

Last Saturday was the first day in almost three years that all 17 Boeing 787 aircraft operated by Virgin Atlantic were fit to fly.

According to a LinkedIn article this week by Virgin’s VP of Engineering & Maintenance:

there are still 24 Rolls-Royce powered Boeing 787 aircraft globally – operated by 10 different airlines – which are not allowed to fly

since 2015, Virgin Atlantic has performed 133 engine changes on its Boeing 787 fleet in an attempt to try different fixes, which is apparently 10x the number of engine changes undertaken on the A330 fleet

no engine has been changed fewer than three times

On the upside, the airline has got so good as changing Trent 1000 engines that the time taken has more than halved since the first of the 133 replacements was done!

Getting these aircraft back into the air has allowed Virgin Atlantic to accelerate the retirement of its Boeing 747 fleet in response to coronavirus.  It also allows Virgin Atlantic to return its four ex-airberlin A330-200 aircraft in 2022, which were leased as temporary replacements for the Boeing 787 aircraft.

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  1. Dominic Barrington says:

    Er, three times a WEEK, surely?

  2. davvero says:

    Surely you can connect Loganair to BA (LHR) to Bangkok on one ticket already? This gives extra choice but it’s not like the Scottish islands haven’t had this before.

    Why is Barra missing?

  3. Chris says:

    Aren’t Delta in Terminal 2 anyway?

    • DL normally operates from T3, along with VS. T2 is (mostly) the LHR home for Star Alliance.

      • BrightonReader says:

        T2 is the current home for any airline other than BA and Iberia.

  4. Jonathan says:

    Since Loganair will have KLM flight numbers on, does that mean that Virgin Atlantic flying club miles can be earned when flying Loganair?

    I know that the whole business of being able to earn Virgin Atlantic flying club miles with Air France and KLM was meant to have been finalised a little while ago, then the world got plagued with Covid-19

  5. Doug M says:

    Rhys I know you’re a bit of a aviation geek, are the left and right engines different, or can you just fit an engine on either side? I was told for example on 4 engine planes typically only the engines closest to the fuselage have reverse thrust, those outside don’t.

    • Good question! Never thought of that. I believe they’re all the same, which makes maintenance/replacement easier. I know that the engines typically rotate in the same direction.

      • When I toured the KLM engine maintenance workshop in Amsterdam a couple of years ago, they only kept one spare long-haul engine in stock (they cost £50 million, that’s why!). This would imply they are identical.

        • mutley says:

          I’ve been on one of those geeky plane spotting trips. Pity Megado have nothing this year.

        • All engines of each type are the same, so it doesn’t matter each position the engine goes back on the plane. However, not all engine types rotate the same direction, ie some GE and RR engines rotate the opposite direction, not sure each go clockwise and which go anti-clockwise though.

        • Spaghetti Town says:

          wow. that’s cutting it fine.

          BA will have quite a few 747 engines in reserve I think

    • In layman’s terms both engines will be same i.e both Trent 1000 or GEnx in the 787 case. Though in practice the specific hardware standards can and do vary. For example, there are different variants of the Trent 1000; Pack A,B,C & TEN and you could have a Trent 1000 Package B on the left and a Package C on the right. This is referred to as intermix in the industry.

      You’re right about the thrust reversers. On the A380 for example, only the inboard engines are fitted with thrust reversers. The rationale for this is to balance cost, weight and complexity. More thrust reversers mean more hydraulics and more maintenance etc.

      • Doug M says:

        Interesting. Cheers.

      • Dubious says:

        Are the different Packs materially different in terms of the hardware, or is this controlled by the microcontroller/software connected to it?

        • Yes they’re materially different hardware. The associated FADEC software changes as a result too in order to accommodate the different characteristics of the hardware

      • Thats right, they can intermix, but I don’t know if they can put a Pack B engine on -9 or -10. Ie. 787-8 can have any engines, but 787-9 can only have either Pack C or TEN and 787-10 can only have TEN engines.

      • The other reason why A380s only have reverse thrusters on the inboard engines is to prevent debris from being churned up. They are closer to the edges of the runway where it is more likely to occur.

      • I think I remember reading that at one stage there was an instruction that airlines MUST have different Pack engines on each B787. Possibly after the engine on the Norwegian flight from Rome disintegrated.

      • Alex W says:

        Aircraft I’ve worked on, the engines were the same on both sides but had to be “dressed” for the correct side with the correct pipework, wiring looms etc as they would connect to different places on each side. Don’t know if this would be similar for 787 or not.

        By contrast A400M has 4 of the same engine but 2 propellers turning in different directions on each wing. This is achieved by having different gearboxes and propellers.

  6. kiran_mk2 says:

    Does this mean that the issue is finally sorted (with a final fix from Rolls) or is it simply that they have got short term repairs applied to all the aircraft and it’s only a matter of time until more repairs are needed? If it was the former I would have though Rolls would be shouting about it to give investors some good news.

    • It was never just one issue – the problems vary depending on the engine variant. Most of the fixes have been/are being implemented

      • Kiran says:

        I thought the main issue was premature fan blade corrosion – this was the one Rolls were struggling to permanently fix and the temporary solution was to relace the blades a lot more frequently than originally specified.

  7. Deenesh says:

    The population of Orkney is circa 23000. Kirkwall itself is circa 10,000.

  8. Its a lot easier having all your 787s fit to fly when none of them are actually flying
    Lets hope they are still fit when they start to get a few miles under their belts

  9. Presumably the KLM/LM routes are predominantly for corporate oil traffic (plus Stornaway for leisure), so BKK is much less likely than (say) IAH or the Middle East. Makes quite a lot of sense really.

  10. Clive says:

    VS250 just flew over

  11. mutley says:

    Is anyone aware if the 767 ER has the Delta One suite, or is it only fitted to the A350? I will travelling to Detroit at the end of June (hopefully!)

    • Yep, should be. Doesn’t mean every aircraft has been refurbished though!

      • Spaghetti Town says:

        not sure if the 767-300er have them, i know the 767-400 were starting to get them

        • thehornets says:

          Definitely rolling out on the 767-400ER.

          I was delayed coming back from New York and missed my Virgin A350 connection. I was a bit miffed but ended up in a newly refurbished Delta One cabin, which I actually found quite impressive. I actually like the Delta in flight experience – the staff were attentive and the food was perfectly adequate. It’s just the Delta lounges which need some tlc…

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