THE DIRECTORATE General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered the grounding of 11 Airbus A320neo aircraft operated by budget carriers IndiGo and GoAir that are equipped with Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engines with certain serial numbers.
The aviation regulator’s directive came hours after an IndiGo aircraft with the affected engine, on the Ahmedabad-Lucknow route, developed a mid-air snag shortly after take-off, forcing it to return to Ahmedabad.
DGCA said it has not got a “firm commitment” from the US engine manufacturer on addressing fresh safety concerns, which forced it to ground the fleet. The problem with the PW1100G engines was first red-flagged by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) last month, following which certain restrictions were imposed on flying such aircraft.
“EASA has informed that they are evaluating some interim proposals and will be revising the emergency airworthiness directive in due course, as soon as the current affected engines will be modified with a safer interim design. P&W, in their latest communication, has also not given any firm commitment as to when the issue on the engine… will be resolved, and informed that all the affected engines will be replaced by early June 2018. There is no concrete proposal in place at this stage to address the issue,” the DGCA said in a statement.
According to a senior DGCA official, of the 11 planes to be grounded, eight are operated by IndiGo and three by GoAir. However, in a statement, an IndiGo spokesperson said the airline will ground six aircraft, in addition to the three that were pulled out of operation last month after the EASA directive.
The DGCA official said IndiGo’s three aircraft, in which both the equipped engines were affected, were grounded last month, while eight aircraft with only one affected engine were allowed to fly under certain restrictions.
After EASA highlighted the problem last month, three incidents of in-flight shutdowns of these engines were recorded — on a GoAir flight from Leh on February 24, on an IndiGo flight from Mumbai on March 5, and on the IndiGo flight from Ahmedabad on Monday. “In view of the above, and keeping in mind the safety of aircraft operations, A320neos fitted with PW1100 engines beyond engine serial number 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,” DGCA said.
The problem pertains to a ‘knife-edge seal’ on the engine’s high-pressure compressor that was introduced as a modification late last year. It is different from the performance issues with the engine’s carbon seal and combustion chamber witnessed by operators last year, which led to grounding of a number of aircraft. Following the EASA directive in February, Airbus had suspended the delivery of A320neo aircraft equipped with the affected engine model.
In a statement, Pratt & Whitney said: “We are working closely with our customers to minimise disruption. The corrective action has been approved and we have already begun to deliver production engines with the upgraded configuration. We are working to mitigate the AOG (aircraft on ground) situation by the end of the second quarter.”
IndiGo and GoAir have a total of 32 and 13 A320neos in their fleet, respectively. “We are in receipt of the communication from the DGCA and we shall comply promptly with the directions of the DGCA. Upon implementation of the directive, IndiGo shall have a total of nine A320neo aircraft on ground. The affected passengers will be accommodated on other flights on our network,” an IndiGo spokesperson said.
GoAir, too, confirmed receipt of the missive from the aviation regulator. “GoAir has received the directive from the DGCA for immediate grounding of all late serial number P&W engines. We have complied immediately. GoAir is committed to the highest standards of safety and compliance and we sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to our valued customers. We are altering flight schedules and communicating the same to those affected by the last minute changes; we are making all possible arrangements to minimise the impact,” a GoAir spokesperson said.