DGCA tells IndiGo to replace unmodified P&W engines in Neo aircraft

Topics DGCA | IndiGo | P&W

The aviation regulator on Monday barred the country’s largest carrier, IndiGo, from operating Airbus A320 and 321 Neo aircraft having turbine blades built with titanium, which is prone to damage leading to mid-air engine shut down. The airline will have to replace such aircraft with those having sturdier engine turbine blades built with nickel-chromium alloy, according to a directive issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

People in the know said the move would impact around 110 engines, virtually putting a spanner on the expansion plans of IndiGo — counted among the fastest growing airlines in the world. The engines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney have been facing issues since induction in 2016.

IndiGo, in the last one year, has faced 13 such incidents including four incidents in a single week in October.

The airline will now have to slow down launching new routes, adding frequency as the new aircraft will be used to replace the grounded aircraft.

The extent of disruption will depend on how fast Pratt & Whitney can deliver the new engines but industry sources suggested that replacing 109 engines will impact IndiGo’s operations for close to a year. The airline during its post-results call had said that it intends to grow capacity by 25  per cent. 

“Every aircraft that is added to the existing fleet should lead to one of those with unmodified engines to be grounded and the new aircraft may be operated on the same schedule as was being operated by the grounded aircraft,” a DGCA statement said.

Currently, the airline has 98 A320 and 321 Neo aircraft, of which 52 have modified engine blades. An IndiGo spokesperson, however, said as of now IndiGo was not changing any schedule. “The current schedule remains intact. The airline is working with Pratt and Whitney and Airbus to adjust the flow of engines,” the spokesperson said.

The direction from the regulator comes after a review meeting on Monday. DGCA has found that IndiGo was unable to convince the regulator that it would be able to replace all the unmodified engines by January 31, 2020 — a deadline fixed earlier.

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