NEW DELHI: Indian aviation authorities have warned Pratt & Whitney (PW) that new Airbus A320 Neos being delivered to IndiGo and GoAir from next month will not be accepted unless they come with updated engines as snags continue to plague PW’s yet-to-be-upgraded engines for the Neos.
Sources say Pratt in recent meetings had told the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) that recent instances of in-flight shutdowns and engine failures have been due to problems with main gear box and low pressure turbine.
“PW told us that fix to both these two problems has been found. A software update is being provided to reduce or eliminate these problems and that they will start giving the updated engines to A320/321 Neos which will be delivered to IndiGo and GoAir from next March. When told that was too distant a date to be acceptable, they pushed it forward to January 2020. However, DGCA chief Arun Kumar put his foot down and said such a long wait was not acceptable. Now PW will start delivering new Neos to IndiGo and GoAir with the updated engines from next month,” said a highly placed official.
PW did not comment on this development.
Kumar is learnt to have warned PW, IndiGo and GoAir that “DGCA will not hesitate to take the severest action (which means grounding) to ensure passenger safety should the situation so warrant.” IndiGo is the world’s largest customer for the A320 Neo family of planes. It has ordered 430 of these, with 280 being A320 Neos and 150 A321 Neos. “We had 87 A320 Neos and 5 A321 Neos as on July 20, 2019,” an IndiGo spokesperson said. The mega budget airline is yet to get over 330 Neos from those orders. GoAir has ordered 144 A320 Neos and has got about 35 of them so far.
A senior DGCA official said: “We are in continuous dialogue with the manufacturer (PW) and operators (IndiGo and GoAir) and is closely watching the situation. The mitigation measures, safeguards and stringent checks put in place are helping stabilize the situation. All measures are being taken to ensure passenger safety (in the Neos).”
Sources say aviation authorities spoke to IndiGo and GoAir managements and told them new Neos being delivered with yet-to-be-updated PW engines may not be registered to fly in India from next month. Sensing the regulator’s tough mood, PW offered to accept the September, 2019, deadline for start giving updated engines on new Neos being delivered to the two low cost carriers here which are the only airlines in India to have PW-powered Neos. PW will now give a schedule for updating engines of the Neos currently flying in India with IndiGo and GoAir.
“Globally there are 437 A320/321 Neos flying with PW engines at the moment. Of these, 127 are currently with two airlines in India, which means almost about 30% of PW-powered Neos are in India. PW has given a detailed presentation and claims to have found the fix to the causes of the problems of engine failure and inflight shut down being faced by Neos. They have been told in no uncertain terms that the supply of new Neos to India has to come with the updated engines and that engines of Neos currently in India which need updating should get the same at the earliest in a fixed timeframe,” said the official.
The PW engines of A320/21 Neos have been fang snags for years, due to which some of these planes were even grounded in India last year. At present, the Indian aviation regulator does not allow Indian carriers to fly PW-powered A320/21 Neos to Port Blair.
PW-powered Neos are being delivered to IndiGo and GoAir since March 2016. First the engine had snags that PW attributed to combustion chamber and then bearing seals. Once they were addressed, issues like engine vibration, in-flight shutdown (IFSD) and engine failures continued. “The current Neo engine troubles, PW told us, are due to issues with main gear box (MGB) and low pressure turbine. In a recent presentation, the engine manufacturer told us MGB failure was responsible for six cases of engine failure, including four IFSD. The snag is happening mainly during climb phase when the engine is in something known as ‘excitation phase’ for a software has been developed which will ensure the engine exits this phase quickly and no snags happen. Seventeen aircraft have got this modified MGB,” said a source privy to the DGCA-PW talks.
This June, IndiGo opted for CFM engines over the PW engines for this plane when it placed an order worth $20 billion for CFM engines for 280 A320 and A321 Neo planes.