Aerospace engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney (P&W) is caught in the eye of the storm yet again. The US-based P&W's controversial PW1100G engine, based on the latest geared turbofan (GTF) technology, is creating trouble for the airlines globally. A recent emergency airworthiness directive issued by European aviation agency EASA has red-flagged safety issues with a particular series of P&W engines that are powering A320 and A321 aircraft. Aircraft maker Airbus says that there are 113 P&W powered A320neo family aircraft that are used by 18 customers.
In India, domestic carrier IndiGo has a fleet of three A320neos which are fitted with the 'faulty' engines. IndiGo sources say that the engines are not faulty, and the directive issued by EASA restricts the use of engines from the same series on a single aircraft. "There are reports of vibrations in the aircraft when two engines of the same series are being used on an aircraft. We are in the process of depairing those engines," says the IndiGo source. Depairing refers to using two engines of different series on an aircraft.
EASA, on the other hand, has said that several occurrences of engine in-flight shut-down and aborted take-offs have been reported on certain Airbus A320neo family planes. "While investigation is ongoing to determine the root cause, preliminary findings indicate that the affected engines... are more susceptible to in-flight shut-down. This condition, if not corrected, could lead to dual engine shut-down," says the EASA directive.
P&W, which is investigating the cause of this new finding with Airbus, has stopped the engine deliveries on new A320neos till the issue is rectified. This is going to affect airlines like IndiGo who have ordered a significant number A320neos to expand its network. IndiGo is now planning to take deliveries of 25 A320ceos, the older version of the aircraft type, which will be added to its existing fleet.
IndiGo sources say that P&W will compensate the airline for three grounded aircraft, and for delaying the delivery of A320neos. In addition, P&W will bear the expenses of depairing.
This is the second time in about a year when P&W's GTF engines have developed serious snags. Last year, some six incidents involving A320neos equipped with P&W engines had developed glitches, including a fire on the tail of a GoAir flight. P&W assured airlines of finding the necessary upgrades for those glitches.
The GTF engine has been developed over the past 10 years, and was meant to be cost efficient (consuming 16 per cent less fuel than the older version) and reduce noise footprint by 75 per cent. Till last year, P&W had about 8,000 pending orders for engines based on GTF technology. With Rolls-Royce focusing on the wide-body aircraft engine market, and P&W having persistent issues with PW1100 (a narrow-body aircraft engine), GE Aviation, one of the three large players in the market, has a clear edge to make the most of the situation.