India’s largest airline IndiGo saw yet another technical snag develop on its Airbus A320neo powered by Pratt & Whitney engines on Friday, a development that bolsters the stand of India’s aviation regulator asking the airline and its low-cost rival GoAir to replace all unmodified engines by May 31. On Friday, pilots on an IndiGo-operated A320neo jet en route Kolkata witnessed engine vibrations shortly after taking off from Ahmedabad, following which the aircraft returned back to the airport.
“On February 7, an A320neo aircraft VT-IVY was involved in air turn-back to Ahmedabad due to high vibrations on No. 2 engine. As per the procedure, the crew reduced the thrust on the affected engine and the vibrations became normal. When the thrust was increased again on the affected engine, the vibrations reappeared and were accompanied by light airframe vibration. Following this, the crew decided to turn back and the aircraft was landed safely at Ahmedabad…,” a government official told The Indian Express, adding that the aircraft was powered by an unmodified Pratt & Whitney engine suffering the low-pressure turbine issue.
Confirming the incident, IndiGo said in a statement: “This morning, an IndiGo aircraft operating Ahmedabad to Kolkata was returned to Ahmedabad. During the flight, the pilot momentarily observed a caution message and followed the laid down standard operating procedures. Taking a precautionary measure, the pilot landed back at the Ahmedabad airport. The aircraft was back in operation after inspection”.
Four air turn-back, or in-flight shut down events, were witnessed on Airbus A320neo planes operated by IndiGo in a week during October last year due to the failure of third stage low pressure turbine blades. Therefore, stating that “desperate measures” were required to “put things in order”, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation on November 1 told IndiGo to replace the engines in 97 A320neo aircraft “at all costs” by January 31 or they would be grounded. Later, the deadline was extended till May 31. GoAir was also asked to replace all of its unmodified engines by May 31. The airlines won’t be allowed to fly any unmodified engines after the deadline. As per the latest information, about 70 per cent of the total engines of IndiGo’s operational fleet were found to be modified and all aircraft had at least one modified engine on their wing.
Even as the aircraft operating on the flight that turned back to Ahmedabad was later cleared to fly, the incident was the 23rd such event in around two years involving a snag-ridden Pratt & Whitney engine being operated by IndiGo on its Airbus A320neo aircraft. At the root of the current set of problems with the Pratt & Whitney engines are the unmodified set of engines that have seen problem pertaining to damage of low-pressure turbines. As per a government official, the manufacturer had identified fracture of the mid-turbine frame piston seal, which contributed to nearly half of the low-pressure turbine-related events. Once the problem was identified, inspections were conducted and the manufacturer was asked to replace the engines with those having modified parts that are less susceptible to these problems.
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