The regulator's directive is likely to affect the low-cost carrier's expansion plans as it would have to deploy on existing routes new A320neo family aircraft, which would join IndiGo's fleet in the coming days.
The DGCA on Monday instructed IndiGo to ensure it grounds an old A320neo family aircraft with an unmodified Pratt and Whitney (PW) engine for every new A320neo plane added to its fleet. The aviation regulator issued the directions in view of the January 31 deadline given by it to IndiGo to replace all unmodified PW engines on its 97 A320neo family aircraft or face grounding of planes.
“Simply put, the new aircraft will slip into the role of one existing aircraft with unmodified engines…The grounded aircraft can be allowed a fresh schedule once its PW engines are replaced,” a senior Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official said.
The regulator’s directive is likely to affect the low-cost carrier’s expansion plans as it would have to deploy on existing routes new A320neo family aircraft, which would join IndiGo’s fleet in the coming days. Efforts undertaken by IndiGo to replace all unmodified PW engines on its 97 A320neo family aircraft by January 31 next year – as per the previous instructions of the DGCA – do not “instill enough confidence with regard to the timely completion of the said task”, the official said.
“If left unaddressed, we may find ourselves in a situation, in which, we remain saddled with large number of aircraft with unmodified engines and operating on a schedule approved by us and we are left with the only option i.e. to ground them on January 31, 2020,” the official said. If the DGCA exercises this option, “large scale disruptions with its attendant consequences” shall follow, the official said.
IndiGo said in a statement said, “The current schedule remains intact.” “IndiGo is working with PW and Airbus to adjust inflow of LPT (low pressure turbine) 3rd stage modified engines to meet the DGCA guidelines,” the airline said.
With a fleet of around 247 planes and a share of around 47 per cent of the domestic air passenger market, IndiGo is India’s largest airline. “Now onwards, every aircraft that is added to the existing fleet, shall lead to one of those with unmodified engines to be grounded… the new aircraft may be operated on the same schedule as was being operated by the aircraft, which will be grounded,” the official said.
On November 1, the DGCA had told IndiGo to replace PW engines under both wings of 97 A320neo family aircraft “at all costs” by January 31 or they would be grounded. The November 1 directive had come after the airline faced four mid-air engine malfunctions in A320neo planes in the last week of October, which “caused a serious concern and resultant disruption”, according to the regulator.
The budget carrier was asked to present a “complete action plan” on November 25 on how it would procure and replace PW engines on all 97 aircraft by January 31, said the DGCA official on Monday. On October 29, IndiGo had announced that it would buy 300 “Airbus 320neo family” planes, which comprised A320neo, A321neo and A321XLR aircraft.
However, the budget carrier made it clear that the choice of engine manufacturer for this order would be made at a later date. The PW engine-powered A320 neo planes in the fleets of IndiGo and GoAir have been facing glitches both mid-air and on-ground since their induction way back in 2016, which has also led to grounding of some planes.