El Al’s new Dreamliners: fuel efficient headache
El Al Israeli Airlines is currently in a process of fleet renewal, introducing new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. The airline expects to receive the final Dreamliner from its order of 16 in the first quarter of 2020, however, it is struggling with Rolls-Royce engines that power 787-9s.
El Al revealed it has so far received 11 of 16 Boeing 787-9s it has on order and expects to receive three more by the end of 2019. The final two Dreamliners are to arrive within the first three months of 2020.
In the Q2 2019 the company’s fuel expenses decreased by approximately 6.2% ‒ a result in part attributed to the new airliners that consume less fuel than older generation planes. But while Dreamliners helped the company to lower its jet fuel expenses, the introduction of new aircraft, seven of which are leased, also meant an increase of loan interest expenses “mostly due to the increase in the amount of loans taken by the Company to finance the 787-9 Dreamliners”, according to Dganit Palti, EL AL's CFO.
Trent 1000 TEN problems
Another problem that the company is experiencing with its new aircraft is related to its powerplants. There are two engine options available for Boeing 787 Dreamliner: General Electric GEnx or Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 TEN. El Al uses the latter.
In April 2019, after discovering that “a small number” of Trent 1000 TEN engines are affected by premature High Pressure Turbine (HPT) blade deterioration, Rolls-Royce and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have agreed on an accelerated inspection regime.
For El Al, this meant that some parts on its Dreamliners engines would have to be replaced “earlier than expected”. Until the replacement, the frequency of inspection of these parts had to be increased, with further engine utilization depending on the findings of these inspections.
If there were no findings in these inspections, the Company would be required, as of 2020, to gradually replace the said engine parts [...] in accordance with a replacement plan. “The early replacement of these parts as of 2020 and/or any findings in these inspections could have an impact on the Company's flight schedule and the Company is examining possible measures to deal with such developments,” the airline stated at the time. The airline had two spare engines at the time.
Now, it turns out that “findings” were detected during the inspections. The airline revealed that problems were detected in two engines in July 2019. Engines have ince been replaced with spares.
In the light of the ongoing engine issues, El Al has pushed forward the purchase of two Rolls-Royce Trent 1000. Initially, the airline was planning to buy them in 2023-2024, but received them in August 2019 instead.
At the moment, four spare engines have been installed on the airline’s Dreamliners.
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