The European Aviation Safety Agency’s (EASA) emergency airworthiness directive (EAD) warning of a potential “dual engine” in flight shutdown on A320-neo- family aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1100G geared turbofan (GTF) engines yesterday has not only upstaged the expansion plan of India’s fastest growing airline IndiGo but it has also raised some very pertinent issues about aviation safety in the country that has forced the civil aviation ministry to come out and state that it will look into all aspects related to safety. Post the EASA’s directive Airbus has conveyed to its A320neo customers that it has halted all deliveries of this aircraft type. “Product Safety Boards of Pratt & Whitney and Airbus, post evaluating the PW1100G-JM engine issue, have decided that all neo deliveries are on hold till further notice.” IndiGo in statement said that in the last 18 months, it has done 69 engine replacements as best possible precautionary measure to avoid any technical glitch. It further clarified that these are not engine failures. “There have been 3 inflight shut downs and three turn backs on the ground prior to take off which were identified and dealt with in a timely and safe manner,” the airline further added. The recent engine issues have forced the airline to ground three of its aircraft powered with the similar engine type. Airbus in a response to a mail said that it has traced 17 engines back to Indian airlines (that are impacted) and the operators are informed. It further said that Pratt & Whitney is investigating the root cause of this new finding with the full support of Airbus and said that the grounded aircraft engine change can be accomplished within approximately two days once a replacement engine is available. It however did not give a timeframe for delivery delays and said “delivery delays are being assessed on a case to case.” The decision of Airbus to halt deliveries for all its A320neos will definitely put a spanner in the ambitious expansion plans of IndiGo that placed one of the largest orders of this aircraft type, 250 A320neos, with Airbus and those will be mounted with the 32GTF powered engine. IndiGo notified the same to the stock exchange today.
It will also impact its upgrade of this aircraft type the 321LR that it has decided to opt for recently. “Its not rocket science that these deliveries will be impacted.” But IndiGo sources said that it would continue to expand its market as it will get about 25 of the other variant of the A320 family the CEOs by March 2019 and will continue to add about 20 per cent of the capacity. The airline has plans to expand on international routes and grow its domestic market share. Industry sources close to Pratt & Whitney, the Connecticut based American engine manufacturer, said that it will take a huge financial hit because of these delays and because of the aircraft grounded due to the engine issues and will have to compensate IndiGo as it is bound by contract and it did compensate IndiGo earlier too because the airline had to cancel flights as there were issues in the combustion chamber and No3 seal bearing. Those have been resolved since. India is one of the largest markets of P&W engines and out of approximately 113 engines flying worldwide India has 45- 32 with IndiGo and 13 with GoAir. GoAir’s contract however does not hold Pratt & Whitney liable, sources said. The issue impact 6.7 per cent of the total fleet in India and Pratt & Whitney says they have identified all the potentially affected engines and communicated with our customers. And will be addressed in the manner consistent with the operational instruction issued by Airbus and co-coordinated between Airbus and Pratt and Whitney.
Pilots who are flying aircraft fitted with these engines have confirmed that there are definitely issues with this engine type and they are recurring and it is a concern. But sources on the manufacturing side said that these issues are in no way safety issues as these were relate to aircraft on the ground.
By: Manisha Singhal