The Pratt & Whitney’s gearbox issue in Indigo: ‘No clarity from P&W’

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Published: January 22, 2019 12:36:46 AM

The latest problems in the main gearbox of engines have caused aircraft to be grounded by IndiGo and GoAir, the other operator of the neo fleet powered by PW1100 engine.

The Pratt & Whitney’s gearbox issue in Indigo: ‘No clarity from P&W’

Pratt & Whitney, which supplies engines for Indigo aircraft, is yet to communicate to the DGCA a timeline by which the problem relating to the gearbox of the aircraft would be resolved, DGCA officials told FE on Monday. “We are waiting for Pratt & Whitney to fix the gearbox issue and inform us. They haven’t communicated a timeframe but we expect it to be soon,” a senior DGCA official said.

The official added aviation regulators across the world have issued airworthiness directives (AD) on the neo fleet from time to time. “The US Federal Aviation Administration issued two ADs in November last year raising scrutiny on the P&W engines,” he explained.

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The DGCA official said the European Aviation Safety Agency had opined in November 2018 that operations by aircraft with one defective engine should be permitted, provided such jets don’t undertake extended flights over water, where they are more distant from nearby airports in the event of an emergency. “It did not deem complete grounding of the fleet necessary,” the DGCA official said.

The latest problems in the main gearbox of engines have caused aircraft to be grounded by IndiGo and GoAir, the other operator of the neo fleet powered by PW1100 engine.

Earlier in the month, one of the P&W engines of IndiGo neo aircraft operating on the Chennai-Kolkata route stalled mid air followed by a loud bang. Following this, the Ministry of Civil Aviation issued fresh directives to the operators of the neo fleet including weekly monitoring and restrictions on flying to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. A Delhi-bound GoAir flight returned to Mumbai after high vibrations in the engine on January 10.

The engine troubles have proved to be IndiGo’s achilles heel in recent past. According to the DGCA data, IndiGo faced 69 instances of engine failure on its A320 neo fleet during 2018. These issues were on account of distress in combustion chamber, oil chips detection and rear knife edge seal.

“The new aircraft which are being inducted have been modified for earlier concerns. These are fresh issues (with engines) cropping up. We issue directives based on safety concerns of the passengers,” the official said.

However, experts seems unconvinced with the temporary solutions to the engine snags. “These are just quick fix or temporary solutions. It doesn’t address the problem completely. The regulator should seek one-time solution to the issue,” Mark Martin, founder and CEO of Martin Consulting, pointed out.

Minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha recently said of the five main issues with the engine, four had been addressed, while the fifth was yet to be addressed.

Both IndiGo and GoAir currently operate close to 100 Airbus A320 neos which were first introduced in 2016.

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