Nearly a third of Pratt & Whitney-powered Airbus A320neo aircraft in India, or 14, have been affected due to the latest glitch in the power plant’s high pressure compressor aft hub. However, only three, operated by budget carrier IndiGo have been grounded so far. Following an emergency airworthiness directive from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) late last week, Airbus also postponed deliveries of the aircraft model with the Pratt & Whitney engines. The glitch has affected engines manufactured within a certain time-frame.
“In India, some 14 aircraft are equipped with either both or one engine from the affected series. Customers have been informed and PW and us are in contact with the airlines to minimise any disruption,” Airbus said in response to an e-mail query sent by The Indian Express. Currently, in India, 45 Airbus A320neo powered by the PW1100G-JM geared-turbofan (GTF) engines are being operated by IndiGo and GoAir. Further, Director General of Civil Aviation BS Bhullar told this newspaper via text message that there was no plan to ground the entire fleet of Airbus A320neos using Pratt & Whitney engines in India.
“Following a new issue identified on a limited number of recently delivered Pratt & Whitney GTF engines affecting the high pressure compressor aft hub, immediate actions were launched without delay…In order to cascade info and mitigating measures in a timely manner, Airbus and EASA agreed to issue an Emergency Airworthiness Directive (EAD) to ensure continued safe operation of the PW A320neo fleet. In other words, under the condition that the mandatory requirements of the EAD are met, the PW powered A320neo fleet is safe to fly,” Airbus said.
In a separate statement, a spokesperson of the civil aviation ministry said that recently two incidents of IndiGo’s Airbus A320neo of aborted take-off and in-flight shut down occurred due to engine failure on January 11 and January 29, respectively. “In this regard, DGCA, as a precautionary measure, had taken up this issue with the operator to take up the matter with M/s Airbus and M/s Pratt & Whitney,” the spokesperson added.
The engine-maker, in an update on the issue on Monday, said that it had implemented an engineering change in mid-2017 “that was intended to improve the durability of the knife edge seal for this engine”. Engines that incorporated this engineering change entered revenue service on customer aircraft beginning in December 2017, it said, adding that in late January and early February of this year, four of these modified engines did not perform as anticipated. “The current population of impacted engines is 43 engines installed on 32 aircraft, of which 21 aircraft have one engine with the modified configuration, and 11 aircraft have two engines with that configuration. There are also approximately 55 such engines delivered to the Airbus final assembly line awaiting installation on customer aircraft. Pratt & Whitney is working with Airbus to implement the remediation plans set forth in its all operator transmission. The company is also working to assess an overall industrial and delivery plan to minimise customer disruption. Pratt & Whitney will be in a position to provide greater detail around the remediation plan and impact, if any, on its 2018 delivery plan, once the regulatory authorities address its proposed solution,” Pratt & Whitney said.
This problem follows a series of performance issues related to the engine’s combustion chamber and carbon seal for one of the bearings witnessed for the said model over the last two years, during which, according to the civil aviation ministry, there were 69 engine removals and replacements for 23 aircraft operated by IndiGo, which is the largest A320neo customer for Airbus in the world. IndiGo had said earlier that, 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.
“In the interest of safety of aircraft operation, DGCA always takes proactive steps as has been taken in case of combustion chamber failure and…bearing failure for PW1100 series engines. Likewise, in the instant case of PW1100 engines (with high pressure compressor aft hub problem) , further course of action will be taken by DGCA after receipt of detailed report/inputs from EASA in this regard,” the ministry spokesperson said.