In the past 24 hours, IndiGo Airlines, by its own admission, found five technical snags in five different A320 aircraft, resulting in the grounding of an A320 Neo. That takes the total number of its grounded planes to 12. Last month, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had grounded 3 A320Neos with faulty Pratt & Whitney engines belonging to IndiGo. And last Monday, the regulatory body barred another 8 of these planes from flying - along with 3 GoAir planes - as an added precaution.
IndiGo, reeling under the pressure of over 900 cancelled flights, finally has some hope in sight. Sources in the know told Bloomberg that P&W Whitney will provide spare engines to all of IndiGo's grounded planes within 40 days. The first delivery, in fact, is scheduled for Wednesday.
This development follows P&W President Robert F. Leduc's recent declaration that all the grounded planes will be back in air soon, "You may have seen that the Indian authorities took a decision to ground the fleet in India that have engines of this... We're disappointed with that decision, but I can tell you that by the end of April, that fleet will be back up in the air flying in India," he said during an interaction with parent firm United Technologies Corporation's (UTC) investors.
According to media reports, P&W had initially proposed replacing the faulty engines by June, which would require some planes to fly with one faulty engine for almost three more months. The US-based aircraft engine maker had also suggested a temporary fix of swapping engines between affected planes to allow five of the grounded planes to recommence flying. However, the DGCA had played safe by rejecting that option. In the meantime, IndiGo has reportedly already lost more than $600 million in market value this month.
Expediting the delivery schedule works in favour of P&W, too. As the report points out, it would provide a breather to the company struggling to get its most ambitious turbine program back on track. It had reportedly invested $10 billion to develop the geared-turbofan (GTF) engines, which power many Airbus A320Neos. These engines' had found many takers with their promised ability to reduce fuel burn by 16 per cent, lower regulated emissions by 50 per cent, and reduce noise footprint by 75 per cent. Unfortunately, the technical glitches on what Airbus calls "a limited number of recently delivered P&W GTF engines" is the latest in a long string of problems that have plagued the engine right from the start, from manufacturing hurdles to durability issues and more.
Perhaps they will have better luck with the promised batch of replacements.
(With agency inputs)