Boeing 777: Air New Zealand will not ground its eight long-haul jets that are in the same series as the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. Photo: Lawrence Smith
As concerns grow about the safety of the twin-engined Boeing 777-200ER aircraft following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 with 227 passengers, including six Australians, aboard, Air New Zealand has revealed it has no plans to ground the eight long-haul jets of the same series in its fleet.
A spokeswoman for Air New Zealand, one of the most popular international carriers for Australian travellers, told Fairfax Media it has received "no information to suggest there are any concerns relating to the several hundred 777-200ER aircraft operating around the world". It referred all other inquires to Boeing, the jet's US manufacturer.
Virgin Australia operates Boeing 777-300 aircraft - a different series to the Malaysia Airlines jet - with the local carrier's planes featuring General Electric engines instead of the Rolls Royce Trent versions installed on the MH370 flight, which went missing early on Saturday.
The Boeing 777, which was launched nearly 20 years ago, is considered among the world's safest and most successful airliners with the only fatal accident involving a 777-200ER being an Korean-operated Asiana airliner which last crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport last July. Three passengers died with the accident widely suspected to be due to pilot error.
A spokeswoman for Boeing Australia would not comment on the future of the 777-200ER or any recommendation that may be issued to ground it due to safety concerns, instead referring to an updated four-line statement from its Seattle headquarters. The "ER" references in the jet's name refers to "extra range", meaning it is suitable for long-haul flying.
"Boeing will join the US National Transport Safety Board team as technical advisor," the statement reads. "The team is now en route to the area so that they will be positioned to offer assistance."
Earlier this year, Air New Zealand announced plans costing $NZ100 million to overhaul all eight of its 777-200ER jets, dating to 2005-2006, with new seats from "tip to tail" and an upgraded in-flight entertainment system. The airline planned to bring its 777-200ERs in line with the standards of its new and more modern Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.