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Originally published December 13, 2012 at 8:00 AM | Page modified December 14, 2012 at 10:35 AM

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Qatar Air Boeing 787 grounded with fault similar to United jet

Qatar Airways said that a 787 jet just handed over by Boeing developed a problem similar to one that forced a United aircraft with a faulty generator to make an emergency landing.

Bloomberg News

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LONDON – Qatar Airways said a 787 jet received from Boeing this week has been grounded with a faulty generator, a problem similar to one that forced the emergency landing of a Dreamliner operated by United .

Qatar Air’s third 787 exhibited the failure on its delivery flight from the United States, Akbar Al Baker, the Gulf carrier’s chief executive officer, said Thursday at London’s Heathrow Airport. The plane has been grounded since Dec. 9 and may remain so for at least four days while Boeing sends spares and a recovery team.

“These problems are unacceptable because this aircraft has been flying for the last 14 months,” Al Baker said in an interview, referring to the Dreamliner, which entered commercial service late last year. “They have to get their act together very fast because we at Qatar Airways will not accept any more defects.”

A United 787 was forced to land on Dec. 4 after the failure of one of six generators. The 787, the world’s first composite-plastic airliner, saves on fuel with a Hamilton Sundstrand system that doesn’t divert air from the engines for power, instead using five times as much electricity as older jets.

“Two aircraft having the same problem — the same major problem — so quickly is a cause of concern,” Al Baker said, adding that Doha-based Qatar Air will ask Boeing to cover its losses. “Definitely we will demand compensation. We are not buying airplanes from them to put in a museum.”

Chicago-based Boeing said its technical team is working with Qatar Air to determine the cause of the generator failure and take appropriate steps.

“Boeing is working as expeditiously as possible to perform the replacement of electrical components needed to return Qatar Airway’s third 787 to service,” said Lori Gunter, a spokeswoman in Everett where the planes were assembled. “We’re going to give the technical team sufficient time to review the findings of both events and understand how they might be similar or different.”

Al Baker said the generator glitch is particularly galling given that the 787’s commercial debut was delayed for more than 3½ years because of issues with new materials and production techniques, and because the model has been flying for so long.

“I don’t think there is any excuse,” said the executive, who was at London Heathrow after Qatar Air’s first flight there with another of its 787s. “There will be teething problems, yes, minor teething problems.”

Qatar Airways, the second-biggest Gulf carrier, is due to get two more 787s on Dec. 19, taking the fleet to five, Al Baker said. That will increase to 10 by the end of 2013, compared with an original plan for 30 before the program delays, he said.

“Hopefully, with the ramp-up of production at Boeing we will receive some more, but for that I will keep my fingers crossed,” the CEO said. “We have told Boeing that this kind of problem is unacceptable to us because we are already falling behind our expansion program.”

Holdups with the Dreamliner have already forced Qatar Air into a “huge upgrade program” for its similarly sized Airbus A330 planes in order to extend operations for at least three years, he said. Some of the carrier’s 29 A330s will get new seats and in-flight entertainment, he said.

Still, the performance of 787s delivered has been “quite adequate,” Al Baker said, and Qatar Air has seen no evidence of a separate fuel-leak problem that led the Federal Aviation Administration a week ago to order inspections and repairs.

“Boeing makes fine airplanes,” he said. “We hope we will always work with them as long as they satisfy our requirements.”

Information from Bloomberg reporters Chris Jasper in London and Susanna Ray in Seattle is included in this report.

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