A bench of Justices Naresh Patil and G S Kulkarni also said that merely grounding some aircraft or following the directive of the European Air Safety Authority (EASA) against the use of P&W 1100 engines belonging to the '450 and beyond' series, was not enough.
The Bombay High Court today asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to list the steps being taken to check the airworthiness of all Pratt and Whitney 1100 engines that power A320neo aircraft. A bench of Justices Naresh Patil and G S Kulkarni also said that merely grounding some aircraft or following the directive of the European Air Safety Authority (EASA) against the use of P&W 1100 engines belonging to the ‘450 and beyond’ series, was not enough. The court said it was the “duty” of the Union government (UoI) and the DGCA to ensure that all aircraft were safe for travel and passengers were assured of their safety. “Are you merely relying upon the directive and certification issued by the EASA, or, have you conducted your own study to ensure that all engines, even those that have not been flagged by the EASA, are absolutely safe?” the bench asked. “Your duty does not end merely at grounding some flights. It is also the duty and responsibility of the DGCA and the UoI to ensure that the people of India feel safe,” it said. “You must widely publicise the steps being taken to ensure that the flagged engines are not being used and that air travel was perfectly safe. Open a window to address the queries and pacify the fear of air travellers,” the bench said.
The directions came after senior advocate Janak Dwarkadas, the counsel for IndiGo Airlines, told HC that the airline was replacing all affected engines with “better and new” engines. “However, there is a sort of fear psychosis among passengers now. They keep asking if the aircraft has a P&W engine,” Dwarkadas said. “This is because the DGCA is not communicating well with the passengers,” he said. The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by a city resident Harish Agarwal, seeking appropriate directions to the civil aviation authorities, over recent reports of certain Pratt & Whitney engines powering A320neo planes being more susceptible to engine failures.
In February this year, EASA had issued an airworthiness directive for A320neo planes fitted with PW1100 engines having a particular serial number. As per the directive, PW1100 engines are classified into two types or series of numbers– 449, and 450 and beyond. The EASA ruled that engines having serial numbers 450 and beyond had combustion and other safety problems. It ruled that across the world, all A320neo aircraft with both engines having 450 or beyond serial numbers should be grounded, while those with only one 450 and beyond engine could continue to fly.
However, DGCA’s counsel Adveith Sethna said that in India, aircraft with even one 450 and beyond PW1100 engine were being grounded. Seven aircraft belonging to IndiGo and two from GoAir’s fleet had one or both engines belonging to the flagged serial number and had been grounded, he said. Sethna also told HC that DGCA had received a certification from engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney that all pre-450 series engines met safety standards.
However, the bench asked whether the DGCA was content with just the P&W’s self certification, or whether it was doing something else to check not just the 450 and beyond engines, but, also the pre-450 engines. Sethna meanwhile, told HC that it will issue a public notice clarifying the issue. The bench has directed the DGCA, IndiGo and Go Air to file their respective affidavits by April 2 on compliance with all safety standards in light of the above issue.