Pratt and Whitney engine issue: Will take harshest action if needed, says DGCA

NEW DELHI: India will not ground the Airbus A320 Neo aircraft of IndiGo and GoAir which are powered by Pratt & Whitney’s (PW) snag-prone engines for now as this combination is used globally. However, Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Arun Kumar — who called an “urgent meeting” with the two airlines on Wednesday to review the recent spurt in PW Neo engine snags — has warned that the regulator will take the ‘harshest’ of steps to ensure safety of passengers which includes grounding the PW-powered Neos if needed. 

IndiGo (92) and GoAir (35) together have 127 of these planes, accounting for almost 40% of entire domestic capacity and “any knee-jerk reaction to completely shut their operations will have serious consequences,” the DGCA said in a statement after the review meeting, which added that “operation of these aircraft/engines are considered safe globally.”

Airlines across the world are currently using 436 PW-powered A320/21 Neos of which 127 — nearly one-third — are with IndiGo and GoAir.

Pratt engines for the Neos have been facing snags since 2016, when IndiGo was among the first airlines globally to get this combo (PW-powered A320 Neos). The engine manufacturer has been trying to resolve the causes and types of snags, both of which keep shifting. 

PW has attributed current engine issues like in-flight shutdown, air turn back (flight returning to origin) and rejected take off are being to faulty main gear box (MGB) and low pressure turbine (LPT). IndiGo and GoAir have seen nine cases of engine snags this calendar year till August due to these two reasons. 

Pratt claims to have found a software update for these issues currently being faced. DGCA told PW on August 19 2019, that from September onwards India will accept new deliveries of IndiGo and GoAir’s new A320/21 Neos only with engines that have updated software, modified MGB engines and LPT blades.

Similarly when PW engines on IndiGo and GoAir’s existing fleet of Neos go for servicing, they will be allowed to be fitted back on wings only if they get these updated. And finally, GoAir and IndiGo will not lease old A320/21 Neos that don’t have modified PW engines.

GoAir has 144 A320 Neos on order. IndiGo is the largest customer for A320 Neos globally with 280 A320 Neos and 150 A321 Neos on order. This June IndiGo opted for CFM engines over PW when it ordered CFM’s LEAP-1A engines for 280 A320 and A321 Neos. GoAir has selected PW for 72 Neos and is yet to finalise engines for the remaining 72.

“DGCA is continuously monitoring the performance of these engines and taking appropriate proactive measures as and when required including grounding of aircraft in the interest of safety and further remedial measure if necessitated, will be taken. The operation of these aircraft/ engines is considered safe globally. PW has been directed to ensure more availability of spare engines for Indian operators to prevent grounding of aircraft due to removal of engines. DGCA assures all its stakeholders that we are alive to the situation and will take the harshest action, should the need arise,” the regulator said in a statement Wednesday.

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