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Airbus A320neo engines and the faults with them

  • The P&W 1100G-JM engine that powers A320neo planes is a “fan driven-geared turbine engine” manufactured by US-based P&W
  • Airlines operating this aircraft have faced several problems with the engine

Passengers of IndiGo and GoAir—the two airlines operating Airbus A320neo planes powered by Pratt and Whitney (P&W) engines—have faced delays, cancellations, and, importantly, a threat to their safety as glitches related to this engine surfaced. Mint takes a look at the issue.

What’s the P&W engine powering A320neos?

The P&W 1100G-JM engine that powers A320neo planes is a “fan driven-geared turbine engine" manufactured by US-based P&W. The engine has been “type certified" by the Federal Aviation Administration of the US and, subsequently, by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. It is more fuel efficient, generates more thrust, and produces less noise and is environment friendly. At present, there are 127 P&W engine-powered A320neo aircraft in India and 436 operating globally. In India, IndiGo operates 92 P&W powered A320neo planes, while GoAir has 35 such aircraft in its fleet.

What are the technical problems?

Airlines operating this aircraft have faced several problems with the engine. The major ones involve combustion chamber distress, low pressure turbine (LPT) and gear box failures, engine vibration, among others. While some issues, such as combustion chamber distress, have been addressed, P&W is working on suitable mitigation measures to resolve the remaining problems. To resolve problems related to LPT failure, redesigned and more durable LPT stage 3 blades are being incorporated, while a redesigned piston seal in the high pressure compressor will be used to address transient vibration.

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(Graphic: Sarvesh Kumar Sharma/Mint)

What happens when a fault is detected?

The engines are removed and sent for maintenance or modification. Those with gear box issues are immediately sent for a software update. This has been done on all such engines in India.

What is the aviation regulator doing?

Measures taken by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to detect problems early include removal of engines to prevent glitches, and more frequent combustion chamber inspections and engine replacements. DGCA has asked airlines to log all cases of detection of odour or smoke in the cabin during operations, monitor and inspect engines in case of vibration. It is also restricting the operation of A320neo aircraft with P&W engines on the Port Blair sector as the plane has to fly over water bodies.

How are the remaining issues being tackled?

All A320/321neo aircraft inducted after August must be installed with a modified main gear box (MGB) and new modified third stage LPT blades. At present, no engine from maintenance, repair and overhaul units is accepted unless installed with modified MGBs and new LPT blades. This excludes those which are at final stages in shop or in transit. There is also a restriction on acceptance of lease engines without modified LPT and MGB. The engine failure related to MGB is expected to be contained after software updates.

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