In what could be a huge cause of concern for budget carriers IndiGo and Go Air, the aviation regulator DGCA on Monday grounded 11 A320 neo aircraft powered by a certain series of Pratt & Whitney engines following instances of engine failures during flights. Of these, 8 are operated by IndiGo and 3 by GoAir.
The decision came soon after an IndiGo flight encountered a mid-air engine failure forcing the Lucknow-bound flight to return to Ahmedabad, where it made an emergency landing this morning. The Airbus A320 Neo plane had 186 passengers on board.
Citing safety of aircraft operations, the DGCA said, A320 neos fitted with PW1100 engines beyond ESN 450 have been grounded with immediate effect. "Both IndiGo and GoAir have been told not to refit these engines, which are spare with them in their inventory," the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said in a release.
The regulator would be in touch with the stakeholders and review the situation in due course and when the issue is addressed by European regulator EASA and P&W, DGCA added. Last year, DGCA had ordered detailed inspection of 21 Airbus 320neo planes of IndiGo and GoAir that are equipped with Pratt & Whitney engines, which have been frequently facing technical glitches.
India's largest airline IndiGo, which flies four out of every 10 Indians, has had to replace Pratt & Whitney engines on its 32 A320 Neo aircraft at least 69 times in the period May 2016-November 2017.
IndiGo says these are related to non-detection of chip, carbon seal lining or combustor chamber lining in Pratt & Whitney 1100 series engines. The airline calls these engine 'glitches' and 'non-safety' issues. Indigo's boroscopic tests (which are used to test defects or imperfections through visual inspection by a boroscope of aircraft engines and gas turbines, etc) detected these anomalies in 69 instances.
As per practice, the defective engines were replaced with other engines. Such engine replacement is typically done overnight. After the replacement, the defective engine is sent to the manufacturer to fix the problem. The planes continue to operate with the replaced engines.
On February 9, European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had issued an emergency airworthiness directive for A320 neo planes fitted with PW1100 engines having a particular serial number. The directive followed instances of the engines shut-down during flights and rejected take-offs involving the A320 neo family aircraft.
On February 13, DGCA had said that it was monitoring engine glitches to ensure that safety is not compromised at any time.
On February 21, P&W said it has come out with a revised configuration to address the latest problem in some of its engines powering A320 neo planes.
Passenger aircraft manufacturer Airbus currently offers two engine choices for its Airbus A320 Neos - Pratt & Whitney Pure Power PW1100G-JM and the CFM LEAP-1A engines of CFM. In India, Pratt & Whitney has supplied its PW1100G engines to commercial airlines, including IndiGo and GoAir.
IndiGo and GoAir have ordered hundreds of A-320 Neos with P&W engines and are taking up the issue with the engine manufacturer and Airbus. Vistara and Air India A-320Neos have CFM engines.
Pratt & Whitney is an American aerospace company that manufactures both civil and military aircraft engines.