Leading low-cost carrier IndiGo was forced to ground another A320 neo (new engine option) aircraft on Sunday as the snag-prone Pratt & Whitney engine let down the airline yet again. This is the third incident of an A320 neo, powered with P&W engines, running into a technical glitch since the grounding of IndiGo's 8 aircraft on Monday which sent the airline's flight schedules haywire and wreaked havoc with flyers' travel plans.
IndiGo has cancelled close to 500 flights this month due to the P&W problem. On Sunday, the plane on the Bengaluru-New Delhi morning flight was understood to have been grounded after metal chip particles were detected in the jet's engine oil.
According to an IndiGo statement, the aircraft was proactively withdrawn in Delhi for a maintenance check to attend to a defect reported by the pilot. These maintenance checks are part of a comprehensive programme of early detection, the airline claimed. During the maintenance check, metal chips were observed on engine number 1 and number 3 bearing chip detector, which is a known concern on the neo engine, the airline further stated.
As many as 11 A320 neo aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney (P&W) engines are grounded due to safety concerns, another aircraft has now been added to this number. Sunday's incident comes at a time when the DGCA has been asked to submit an affidavit in the Bombay High Court next week, in response to a PIL, on the steps taken by it to allay the fears of passengers over issues related to P& W engines.
Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had on Monday ordered the grounding of 11 A320Neo planes fitted with P&W1100 engines beyond ESN 450 series due to recurring problems, including mid-air shutdowns. Of these, eight belong to IndiGo while three are from the GoAir fleet. Another three A320 neos of IndiGo are already on the ground since February.
The decision was taken within hours of an Indigo A320 neo aircraft being forced to make an emergency landing at the Ahmedabad airport due to engine failure in mid-air. The aircraft had taken off from Ahmedabad for Lucknow but had to return because of the snag. The DGCA announced that A320 neos fitted with PW1100 engines beyond ESN 450 have been grounded with immediate effect due to safety reasons. Both IndiGo and GoAir have been directed not to refit these engines, which are spare with them in their inventory.
IndiGo had on Friday said that it was actively engaged with the engine and aircraft manufacturers in finding a long term solution at the earliest. The setback also comes at a time when IndiGo plans to seek permission from the government to fly long-haul international flights. Currently it flies foreign destinations only in West Asia and South-east Asia.
The airline had during the October-December quarter received compensation from Pratt & Whitney for the disruption of flights due to technical snags in the engines earlier. It is, therefore, likely to move for similar compensation now.
In a major embarrassment for IndiGo, a new ATR aircraft powered by a brand new Pratt & Whitney engine had to abort its flight from Toulouse to New Delhi and return to the French aircraft manufacturing facility due to a technical snag The IndiGo ATR 72-600 aircraft which was on its maiden flight from its Toulouse headquarters to join the IndiGo hub in New Delhi had no passengers on board.
The aircraft company will conduct checks and take actions as required as is the usual practice while delivering new airplanes. Though the airline did not specify what the technical glitch was, sources said this problem was low oil pressure. IndiGo's arch rival Spicejet, on the other hand, had last week inked a USD 12.5 billion deal with French major Safran Group for fuel-efficient CFM aircraft engines. The deal is for LEAP-1B engines to power a total of 155 Boeing 737 MAX planes.
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