Norwegian 787 Incident Forced A Delay To Virgin Atlantic’s Airbus A340 Retirement

Virgin Atlantic is keeping its A340s a little bit longer. Last week, the airline extended the period until the retirement of the type by around six weeks, moving it from the 26th October to the 8th December 2019. It turns out that the reason for this comes down to an uncontained engine failure on a Norwegian operated Boeing 787 that happened last month.

Virgin A340
Virgin’s delayed retirement of the A340 was due to a Dreamliner issue. Photo: Mark Harkin via Flickr

The reason the A340 is still flying is the 787

Virgin originally slated the A340’s final flight to take place on the 26th October 2019. However, last week the carrier started rescheduling its final five A340s, mostly for LHR to JFK services, as well as a London to Delhi service. In fact, this aircraft is currently scheduled to continue flights until December 8th.

At the time, there was a great deal of speculation over why the carrier would have done this. To get to the bottom of it, Simple Flying spoke to a member of Virgin’s team, who told us,

“It’s all about Rolls Royce and the 787 problem. The engines are taking longer to come back, so Virgin are keeping the A340 a little longer. I don’t mind, it’s still my favorite aircraft.”

Virgin A340
The A340 will fly for Virgin for a little while longer. Photo: Alex Beltyukov via Wikimedia

We don’t mind either, as the A340 is a beautiful bird which will be sorely missed when it does go.

Right now, the A340 is scheduled on these services up until the 8th December, giving avgeeks and quad jet lovers a little more time to snag a flight on one of these rapidly disappearing aircraft.

Knock on effect from Norwegian incident

The crux of the matter comes down to an incident involving a Norwegian Boeing 787-8 a few weeks ago. The Dreamliner was operating flight DY7115 from Rome to Los Angeles when it encountered an engine failure shortly after takeoff.

In an unusual twist, it seems the engine failure was uncontained, meaning that parts of the engine came away from the plane, falling to the ground below. One smashed a car window, and local residents collected fragments from balconies of houses and from the streets of the area around Isola Sacra.

As a result, Rolls Royce rallied to support Norwegian, which led to a delay on Virgin’s own engines coming back from the manufacturer. Speaking to Flight Global, executive vice-president of operations Philip Maher said,

“That caused a number of engines to come out of the pool of engines to support Norwegian … [Our] engines coming back from overhaul for us weren’t available for four to five weeks”.

Virgin 787
Virgin expects to have its 787s back in service by November. Photo: Tomas Del Coro via Wikimedia

This has led the British carrier to keep the A340 a little longer, in order to supplement the lost capacity from grounded 787s. Maher indicated to Flight Global that this would be around two months’ time, and that the carrier expects to have its 787s all back in action by November.

Altogether, Virgin Atlantic operates 17 Dreamliners, all of the 787-9 variant, although one is currently listed as ‘stored’.