European aircraft manufacturer Airbus on Thursday said 113 P&W (Pratt & Whitney)-powered A320neo family aircraft are flying with 18 operators, and the issues identified are on a limited number of recently-delivered P&W engines.
Of 113 aircraft, about 10% have both engines affected. “This means a minimum of one engine needs to be changed on these aircraft,” said the European plane maker. Airbus was responding to queries sent by FE.
In the Indian context, this means that three aircraft that are grounded by IndiGo because of the risk of both engines shutting down in-flight or the risk of a rejected take-off, fall in the 10% category. The total number engines of the series P450 impacted in India remains 17, as reported by FE earlier. “There is no change in the number, Airbus said, adding that it is in contact with the airlines and regulators to minimise any disruption.”
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), in an emergency airworthiness directive on February 9, warned operators and regulators of the risk of in-flight shutdown and rejected take-off that were reported on aircraft flying with the particular series of engines. In India, there was one such incident in January, Airbus said. The US civil aviation regulator, FAA, reportedly said the new engines made by Pratt & Whitney for the latest Airbus single-aisle jetliner, the A320neo, pose a potential shutdown risk.
The Indian civil aviation regulatory authority, DGCA, is facing the heat for not being proactive enough in taking corrective measures despite the engines giving problems ever since they were inducted. The regulator has been accused of compromising passenger safety by allowing the impacted A320neos to continue flying.
Aircraft with these engines were inducted by IndiGo in March 2016. In May 2016, Wadia Group-promoted airline GoAir inducted the same. The DGCA issues a public notice on Thursday on its website spelling out its actions on the matter. It said that safety of aircraft operations was paramount for the DGCA and it has taken proactive measures.
“During operations repetitive defects were reported on these aircraft–distress in combustion chambers and oil chips warning due to wear of No 3 bearing. After examining the defects, following stringent mitigation measures were introduced by DGCA, which resulted in planned removal of engines to contain the failure during flight,” the DGCA clarified, adding that the 69 engine removals that followed these checks were planned ones.
Airbus did not answer the specific FE query on by when a fix will be offered by Connecticut-based engine maker Pratt & Whitney to the aircraft manufacturer. There were reports that the company has a solution and might present it to Airbus and the regulatory authority. Airbus has halted deliveries of the aircraft till the issue is resolved.
Airline sources say they were already struggling with engine issues on this aircraft type along with other issues such as increased take-off time (more than a minute over the CEO type), which was not exactly translating into expected fuel efficiency of 16-20%, which was promised at the time of acquiring the aircraft. Now, the airline’s customers also face uncertainty over deliveries, which could negatively impact their expansion plans.
Airbus maintained that it does not disclose delivery numbers per customer and that it is assessing the situation. It said “(we) are in discussion with our customers on a case-by-case basis”.
By Manisha Singhal