IndiGo, the country’s largest airline by market share, recently ordered 300 new Airbus aircraft, including the A320neos.
In a huge setback for the country’s largest carrier, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Friday issued a directive asking IndiGo to replace both low-pressure-turbine (LPT) engines of 97 Airbus A320neos fitted with Pratt & Whitney engines by January 31, 2020.
In case, the airline is unable to do so within the given timeline, these aircraft will be grounded.
The DGCA directive to IndiGo said: “In case it is not done, such aircraft shall not be allowed to fly with unmodified engines. You may like to stagger or defer your future induction plan and procure sufficient number of modified engines to keep the existing fleet in operation”.
The aviation regulator’s move follows the latest occurrence of engine faltering in an IndiGo aircraft on Wednesday, when the engine of the Pune-bound aircraft reportedly stalled with a loud banging noise and experienced vibrations. DGCA said the situation called for “urgent and effective action”. “Last one week has witnessed four air turn-back/in-flight shut down and has caused serious concern and resultant disruption. This situation cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely,” stated the authority.
Earlier this week, the DGCA had directed GoAir and IndiGo to replace at least one of the two LPT engines of 29 identified planes fitted with Pratt & Whitney engines, which have operated for more than 2900 hours. The civil aviation regulatory authority has now identified seven more such IndiGo aircraft, and given the airline time till November 19 to comply with the directive. GoAir has been mandated to comply by November 13, failing which 13 of its aircraft will be grounded.
The regulatory authority on Friday said that after the deadline, “none of these 23 [IndiGo] aircraft, which do not have at least one LPT modified engine on its wings, shall be allowed for commercial operation and their schedule will suitably be curtailed till this is accomplished.”
IndiGo, the country’s largest airline by market share, recently ordered 300 new Airbus aircraft, including the A320neos. “IndiGo currently operates on its fleet of 98 A320neo family with around 45% of its engines modified. We are working with both P&W and Airbus on mitigation so that we have enough modified spare engines by January 31, 2020. In the meantime, our schedule remains intact,” the airline said.
The senior officials of DGCA also met a Pratt & Whitney team on Thursday, and urged the company to co-operate with the airlines to make the requisite engine replacements, a senior official said. The DGCA noted that engines with 2,900-3,000 flight hours are more vulnerable to LPT damage.
The A320neo fitted with Pratt & Whitney engines have been riddled with problems including gearbox failures, combustion chamber distress, engine vibration and low-pressure turbine failures.
The American aerospace manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney, said it is working in coordination with its airline customers to incorporate upgrades, improving the durability of the LPT in the PW1100G-JM fleet to address a known issue.
“We are committed to supporting our customers to ensure minimal disruption during the fleet retrofit,” the company said.