Pilots land Indian Dreamliner manually after computer problems

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Pilots of a Dreamliner which was forced to divert midflight to Kuala Lumpur had to land the plane manually after it experienced computer problems, an Air India spokesman said on Thursday.

The Air India plane was en route from Melbourne to New Delhi on Wednesday when it suffered what an official had said were "software glitches" and had to make an emergency landing - the latest in a series of mishaps to hit the Boeing aircraft.

Air India spokesman Praveen Bhatnagar said on Thursday that "the commanders lost their confidence in the software system".

"The alternate method available to them was manual landing," Mr Bhatnagar told AFP in New Delhi.

He said the problem was "not serious" and denied local media reports that all three of the plane's navigation computers, which allow the plane to fly long distances on auto pilot, had failed.

More than 200 passengers and crew were stranded overnight in the Malaysian capital after the plane landed safely.

Boeing engineers, who rushed in from Hong Kong, have now fixed the problem and the plane was expected to land in Delhi at 8pm local time on Thursday, the airline said.

Some passengers who needed to fly to Delhi urgently have been put onto other flights.

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner has suffered a series of problems since coming into service two years ago, including a global grounding of its fleet last year over battery system problems.

Air India's Dreamliner fleet has also encountered technical hitches, including an incident where the fuselage panel of a jet fell off while landing in the southern Indian city of Bangalore last October.

The following month, a plane's windshield cracked while landing in Australia, and last month an Air India Dreamliner returned to London after a transponder failure.

In the latest incident, Indian media said the plane's three computers failed simultaneously, forcing the pilots to take the aircraft off autopilot.

"The cockpit software system went blank. The flight landed without any navigation aid," the CNN-IBN news network said, quoting airline sources.

The Dreamliner's troubles have added to the woes of cash-strapped Air India, which itself has been hit by safety scandals, including over some pilots flying with false qualifications in 2001.

Last week, US aviation authorities downgraded India's air safety ranking, saying its aviation safety oversight regime did not comply with international safety standards.

The US said India's regulator did not have enough qualified inspectors to carry out safety checks of all types of aircraft operating in the country.