3 IndiGo pilots did not report A320neo problems, grounded

India’s aviation regulator has suspended at least three pilots and two engineers of IndiGo, the airline run by Interglobe Aviation Ltd, for not reporting incidents of engine vibrations in Airbus A320s fitted with Pratt & Whitney’s Neo engines, according to a senior official with direct knowledge of the development.

Three incidents,dating back to March, came to light after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation or DGCA carried out an audit of the airline between April 15 and April 18, said the official, who requested anonymity. The suspensions have been ordered since.

One incident took place during an Amritsar-Guwahati flight that was headed by Captain Krishna Arjun Reddy. DGCA’s audit found that “the flight crew did not follow the correct procedure of abnormal checklist for High N2 vibrations”.

The vibrations, above prescribed limits, officials said, were caused by Low Pressure Turbines (LPT) blades being faulty. Captain Reddy was suspended for six months by DGCA . The regulator also suspended Captain Sanjay Gupta, who was manning the Istanbul- Delhi flight, for six months for not reporting high engine vibrations.

We haven’t seen the suspension orders; DGCA confirmed that the airline employees are under suspension at the moment.

An IndiGo spokesperson said: “Referring your below mail, we are following the DGCA instructions on the said matter.’’

DGCA has been worried about the Airbus aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney engines after issues surfaced with both the main gear box as well as the turbines of the engines. These manifest themselves as vibrations and could potentially result in engine failure.

In late August, the regulator called for a meeting of executives from IndiGo and GoAir following more reports of such vibrations.

“If the vibrations continue for a long time, then the engine can disintegrate. If they don’t act by shutting down engine, the disintegrated particles then enter the fuselage, which is why the vibration limits are there. What’s happening with Neo engines is that we are having one engine failure in a week in India, so this is not at all a safe condition,’’ said captain Mohan Ranganathan, air aviation expert.

The regulator said in a statement that it was closely watching the situation but that there was no need for all aircraft with these engines to be grounded.

“It is true that there have been cases of Air Turn Back, Inflight shut down or engine vibrations beyond the prescribed limits, but with strong mitigation measures in place and strict adherence to SOPs (standard operating procedure) by the airlines, the problem is being contained.”

However, DGCA does insist on grounding and replacing the engines of aircraft that report these problems.

DGCA admits that even the failure of these engines may not necessarily be life-threatening because the other engine in an aircraft can operate, but says they have to be instantly brought to the notice of the regulator and the engine replaced at registered maintenance centres abroad.

Such replacement comes at a cost.

Captain Gupta’s flight was especially worrying as it was a five-hour-long Istanbul flight which meant that engine trouble could have had serious repercussions, the officials said. “In India, we are well prepared as we have an airport every 30 minutes of flight time,’’ said the DGCA official quoted in the first instance.

The third incident led to Captain Pankul Nag, who was flying the Guwahti-Amritsar flight, being suspended for three months. Two maintenance engineers at Guwahati for Indigo were suspended for six months as well by DGCA, the official said.

The regulator has also suspended the licences of four more engineers, issued a warning to the airline’s quality manager and removed officials in the airline’s maintenance centre, according to the official.

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