India’s largest airline IndiGo said on Monday it has placed an order with Franco-American engine-maker CFM to power 280 of its Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft – moving away from US-based engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100 geared-turbofan engines, which powered 150 of IndiGo’s A320 family aircraft. In a statement, IndiGo said that delivery of the first CFM LEAP-1A-powered A320neo aircraft is scheduled in 2020.
IndiGo’s decision to sign the deal with CFM, which is owned by US-based GE and French aerospace major Safran, follows a series of problems with Pratt & Whitney’s engines on its A320neo planes that often resulted in groundings of these aircraft in the first two years of their service.
The first set of problems with the PW1100 engine model arose in 2016 and was around the powerplant’s combustion chamber and a carbon seal – which showed premature degradations. On account of not enough spare engines being available at that point in time, the airline was forced to ground its aircraft resulting in schedule disruptions and restricted flight operations.
The latter issues pertained to the engine’s gearbox and knife-edge seals. However, the airline was compensated by the engine-maker for the disruptions.
Among Indian carriers, IndiGo will become the third airline to operate the CFM LEAP-1A engines after Vistara and Air India that also fly the A320neo aircraft. Budget carrier GoAir currently operates its Airbus A320neo planes powered by Pratt & Whitney equipment. At list prices, the deal between IndiGo and CFM is valued at $20 billion.
“The CFM LEAP engine will allow IndiGo to maintain its strong focus on lowering operating costs and delivering fuel efficiency with high standards of reliability. This new partnership will allow IndiGo to continue to provide affordable fares to its customers,” said Riyaz Peermohamed, Chief Aircraft Acquisition and Financing Officer of IndiGo.
The Gurugram-headquartered airline, in 2015, placed an order for 430 A320neo aircraft with Airbus, with an option to convert to the larger A321neo planes. Currently, the airline has 82 A320neo and five A321neo planes in its fleet. Its total fleet consists of 230 aircraft including A320ceo planes and ATR turboprops.
Along with the engine purchase order, IndiGo has also signed a long-term service agreement with CFM to support its fleet of LEAP-1A engines. Currently, over 60 LEAP engines are in operation in India with various airlines. The engine model has been in commercial service for three years and has logged nearly 5 million flight hours.