Three Airbus A320neo aircraft operated by budget carrier IndiGo have been grounded after new problems pertaining to Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100G-JM engines were red-flagged by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This comes less than four months after last of grounded Airbus A320neo aircraft operated by IndiGo and GoAir were cleared to fly after Pratt & Whitney resolved issues with a carbon seal and the combustion chamber of its PW1100G JM power plants.
As a result of the grounding, IndiGo said, some of its flights have been cancelled. In addition to the grounding of aircraft by IndiGo, Airbus has postponed deliveries of the aircraft with the PW engines. The matter came to light on Friday when the EASA issued an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) for A320neo planes fitted with PW1100G-JM engines having a particular serial number. According to a senior official at the Indian aviation regulator DGCA, the EASA directive was issued following several instances of the in-flight shutting down of engines and rejected take-offs that were observed in engines having certain serial numbers.
“Airbus has also issued Alert Operators Transmission providing instructions to de-pair the affected engines and discontinue Extended range Twin-engine Operations (ETOPS) for aircraft fitted with affected engines. Accordingly, EASA has imposed following restrictions with immediate effect,” the official at the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said.
Firstly, EASA has said that if an aircraft with both engines being affected has completed three flight cycles after the issuance of the airworthiness directive, it should not operate. Secondly, it has said that if an aircraft with at least one affected engine has operated one flight cycle after the directive was issued, it should not be allowed to conduct ETOPS operations. ETOPS are standards that apply to twin engine aircraft that are flying on routes, which have a diversion time of more than 60 minutes at the speed which can be achieved with one inoperative engine.
“We have identified the potentially affected engines and communicated with our customers. As a precaution, aircraft with these engines will be addressed in a manner consistent with the operational instructions issued by Airbus and coordinated between Airbus and Pratt & Whitney as needed,” Pratt & Whitney said in a statement.
Confirming the development, an IndiGo spokesperson said: “As soon as IndiGo learnt of these developments, IndiGo had proactively withdrawn the three A320neo aircraft from service w.e.f. 9th of February. Our precautionary measure of grounding the three aircraft resulted in cancellations of some of our flights. But we feel it was the best decision in the interest of our safe and reliable operations”. “Product Safety Boards of PW and Airbus post evaluating the PW1100G-jm engine issue decided that all neo deliveries are postponed till further notice. Airbus and Pratt are working in close cooperation and will be swiftly communicating on the way forward to regain normal operations and resume aircraft deliveries,” the airline’s spokesperson said.
Airbus said P&W is investigating the root cause of this new finding with the full support of it. “To date, 113 P&W powered A320 neo family aircraft are flying with 18 customers,” Airbus said in a statement. IndiGo and GoAir are the two domestic carriers that operate A320 neo planes powered with P&W engines. GoAir said it has three of these engines installed in its aircraft. “In full and complete compliance with the requirements, none of GoAir aircraft have two of these engines on the same aircraft,” it said, adding that no aircraft is required to be grounded.
In the past, too, IndiGo has acknowledged facing operational difficulties due to the problems with Pratt & Whitney’s new geared turbofan engines. On certain days, the airline had seen as many as nine of its aircraft grounded due to unavailability of spare engines leading to flight disruptions. Furthermore, various Pratt & Whitney-powered A320neo aircraft operated by IndiGo have suffered from mid-air engine snags because of which the flights had to make unplanned landings.