Indian aviation regulator DGCA on Monday grounded 11 Airbus A320 neo aircraft due to recurring engine malfunction. Of the 11 aircraft, eight belong to IndiGo and three to GoAir. The malfunction has occurred with a certain sub-population of engines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney.
The problem stems from a component in the engine that can show early signs of wear, and is located in an area that must withstand high pressure.
Citing safety of aircraft operations, the DGCA said, “A320 neos fitted with Pratt & Whitney 1100 engines beyond ESN 450 have been grounded with immediate effect.’’ Both IndiGo and GoAir have been asked to refit these aircraft with spare engines. The latest decision follows a warning issued by the European aviation safety regulator, EASA, in February, related to the particular type of engine. In its directive, the EASA had said all aircraft that had both engines of the same type should be grounded immediately. Also, aircraft with single engine of this type should not do long-range operations, the EASA had said. After that, IndiGo had grounded three planes.
In the meantime, three incidents of engine shutdown were reported to the regulator — the latest one occurred in Ahmedabad on Monday when an IndiGo aircraft with 186 passengers was forced to make an emergency landing after mid-air engine failure.
The DGCA said following the EASA direction, it held meetings with Airbus and Pratt & Whitney and asked them for a solution. The manufacturer could not provide a concrete solution, the DGCA said. Pratt & Whitney in its latest communication also could not offer a firm commitment on when the engine issue would be resolved. “There is no concrete proposal at this stage to address the issue,” the DGCA said.
With the grounding of 14 aircraft so far related to the engine snag, the airlines will be forced to cancel a few flights. While the airlines did not provide numbers, sources said that around 90 flights would be cancelled due to the disruption. IndiGo said it would accommodate passengers in other aircraft.
“We apologise to the affected passengers. They will be accommodated on other flights on our network,” an IndiGo spokesperson said. “We are altering flight schedules and communicating the new schedules to those affected by last-minute changes, we are making all possible arrangements to minimise the impact,” a GoAir spokesperson said.
Analysts pointed out the disruption would have an effect on IndiGo’s finances as it would be forced to go in for short-term lease of aircraft to maintain target capacity induction. Short-term leases are expensive and their maintenance cost of such aircraft is also higher than that of new one. Airbus has already stopped delivery of the A320 neo model fitted with Pratt & Whitney engines.
“The problem could become much bigger if the engine supplier cannot find a quick fix as the delivery schedule of future A320 neo could be affected,” said Ansuman Deb of ICICI Securities in a research report.