With nearly half the 56 failures of Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100 series of engines affecting its Indian operators — IndiGo and GoAir — the issue has been raised by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture. Last month, chairperson of the panel TG Venkatesh, summoned officials of the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to discuss issues of passenger safety arising from these snags.
“The house panel had discussed the issue with civil aviation officials and was given a roadmap for a resolution of the probem,” a senior government official told The Indian Express. When reached out, the BJP parliamentarian from Andhra Pradesh refused to comment on the discussions of the meeting. The official cited above said there have been 56 engine failures reported globally for the engine model in the last three years, of which 26 have been reported by Indian carriers. The first failure was reported by IndiGo in January 2017, and by GoAir in September 2018. Last October, the DGCA directed both the airlines to replace unmodified engines with modified ones on its entire fleet by January 31, 2020, and later deferred the deadline to May 31. As per a DGCA official, there are a total of 212 P&W 1100 series engines powering IndiGo’s fleet of Airbus A320neo and A321neo aircraft, while GoAir has 86 engines of this trim. As of date, IndiGo has 66 unmodified engines in its inventory, while GoAir has 42.
“The DGCA’s stand has been acknowledged by the US Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), who have also committed to the replacement of unmodified engines,” the official said, adding that the airlines and the manufacturer have been replacing the unmodified engines in line with the schedule and are expected to fully complete the process by May 31.
The current set of problems with the PW1100 engines are attributed to the fracture of third stage engine turbine blades, which begin to wear out after a certain number of hours in flight.
Move to address delays, disruptions
Even as the technical snags in Pratt & Whitney engines have not resulted in a major mishap, the constant air turnbacks arising out of engine failures have been a constant irritant for passengers who have faced disruptions and delays. It is noteworthy that the current set of snags that have been going on for the last three years follow a different set of issues that plagued the engine model, a major chunk of which was faced by Indian carriers.
“P&W is in process of setting up a maintenance, repair and overhaul unit in India, in collaboration with Air India Engineering Services, for replacement of the third stage low-pressure turbine at their Mumbai facility. This will significantly reduce the time taken for the upgrade. The facility is expected to be operational soon,” the official said.
Even as the DGCA has maintained that there are no severe air safety concerns involving the technical problems with the engine model, lawmakers and civil society groups have rallied for grounding of the fleet till the manufacturer fully addresses the issues.
“The DGCA is continuously monitoring the performance of these engines and taking appropriate action to address the issues. The manufacturer has been directed to ensure sufficient availability of spare engines for Indian operators to prevent grounding of aircraft due to removal of engines,” the DGCA official pointed out.
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