New Delhi: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Friday directed budget carrier IndiGo to replace Pratt and Whitney (P&W) engines on 97 Airbus A320neo aircraft by 31 January 2020 following a series of engine incidents over the past week.

“Last one week has witnessed four air turn back/inflight shut down and has caused serious concern and resultant disruption. This situation cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely," said DGCA director general Arun Kumar.

“Therefore, after considerable deliberations, it has been decided that all aircraft in your fleet numbering 97 as on date, need to be placed with modified low pressure turbine (LPT) for both the engines."

“It has been further decided that the operator must ensure that all these aircraft are provided with modified LPT by 31 January 2020, at all costs. In case, it is not done, such aircraft shall not be allowed to fly with unmodified engines," he said.

Kumar, however, added that IndiGo has already replaced or is in the process of replacing engines in at least half of the 97 aircraft.

On 30 October, an Indigo A320neo heading to Pune suffered a problem with one of its engines during take-off from Kolkata. The aircraft returned to Kolkata and was grounded.

“You (IndiGo) may like to stagger or defer your future induction plan and procure sufficient number of modified engines to keep the existing fleet in operation," Kumar said. The directive is, however, applicable only to IndiGo and not to GoAir for now, he added.

Only IndiGo and GoAir operate P&W-powered A320neo family aircraft in India.

Earlier this week, DGCA had directed both IndiGo and GoAir to stop flying Airbus A320neo planes powered by P&W 1100 series engines, which had clocked more than 3,000 hours, by 12 November. As many as 16 IndiGo and 13 GoAir aircraft have been affected by that order. The airlines will have to replace engines on these planes or face grounding.

On Friday, the DGCA extended this order to seven more IndiGo aircraft. IndiGo will have to make the engine replacements on these seven aircraft by 19 November, failing which these aircraft will be grounded.

A P&W spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

An IndiGo statement said: “...we have received the latest directive from the DGCA on 1 November 2019, which requires that all operating A320neo should have both engines with LPT3 modification installed for operation post 31 Jan 2020. IndiGo currently operates on its fleet of 98 A320neo family."

“We are working with both P&W and Airbus on mitigation so that we have enough modified spare engines by 31 January 2020. In the meantime, our schedule remains intact," it added.

P&W engines on Airbus A320neo are considered more fuel efficient than its competitors, a key reason for airlines to choose this variant of engine for their A320neo aircraft.

However, these engines have faced several issues since entering into service in 2016.

These snags have cost airlines, such as IndiGo, which have been forced to lease aircraft due to groundings. The carrier reported its largest quarterly loss during the September quarter.

“The new DG (director general of DGCA) is taking right decisions relating to safety. (This also) gives time for these engine changes to be completed and yet remains firm on safety," said Kapil Kaul, chief executive, India and Middle East, at aviation consultancy Capa. “P&W has ensured that IndiGo operation are not impacted within the deadline."

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