Aviation safety regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday instructed IndiGo to ground its old A320neo family aircraft with an unmodified Pratt and Whitney (P&W) engine, for every new A320neo plane with the modified engine that is added to its fleet. Earlier, on November 1, DGCA had instructed IndiGo to replace both engines with modified engines on its entire A320neo fleet — of an estimated 98 aircraft — by January 31, 2020 or else face grounding.
The regulator’s order had come in the backdrop of repetitive events of “3rd stage LPT” (low pressure turbine) blade failure of planes causing engine malfunctions on four occasions, potentially compromising passengers’ safety. The budget carrier operates a total of 91 new generation A320neos and seven A321neos.
In a fresh directive Monday, the regulator said: “Though DGCA does not wish to interfere with the import of aircraft, however, it is the considered view of DGCA that from now onwards, every aircraft that is added to the existing fleet, should lead to one of those with unmodified engines to be grounded and the new aircraft may be operated on the same schedule as was being operated by the aircraft, which will be grounded. Simply put, the new aircraft will slip into the role of one existing aircraft with unmodified engines.”
IndiGo shares closed higher 4.39 per cent at Rs 1,452 at the NSE on Monday. Further, DGCA said efforts undertaken by IndiGo to replace all unmodified P&W engines on its A320neo family aircraft by January 31 next year, as instructed earlier, do not “instill enough confidence with regard to the timely completion of the said task.”
The regulator also ordered that IndiGo should now lease only A320/21neos that have modified engines under both their wings.
It said if it grounds all IndiGo planes with unmodified engines after January 31, as earlier instructed, it may cause large-scale disruptions. Therefore, DGCA has suggested induction of a new plane with modified engine leading to grounding of an existing plane for engine replacement.
The DGCA also asked IndiGo to present its complete action plan, by January 31, relating to placement of both modified engines on all aircraft.
“The grounded aircraft can be allowed a fresh schedule once its engines are replaced. This process may remain in force till all engines in the fleet, have been replaced. However, in case, the operator manages to procure sufficient engines from OEM (original equipment manufacturer) for replacement, this process can be suitably altered,” the DGCA said.
Most airlines operating A320neo or A321neo aircraft powered by P&W engines have faced several engine-related issues, including gearbox failures, combustion chamber distress apart LPT blade failure. These issues have been addressed in the modified engines. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), last week, also issued an alert for certain variants of P&W engines for the neo aircraft. “These conditions, if not addressed, could result in uncontained release of LPT 3rd stage blades, failure of one or more engines, loss of thrust control, and loss of airplane,” the DGCA said about the FAA notice.
“The current schedule remains intact. IndiGo is working with P&W and Airbus to adjust inflow of LPT 3 modified engines to meet the DGCA guidelines,” IndiGo said in a statement. The DGCA order, however, may impact expansion plans of the airline.
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