NEW DELHI :
IndiGo, India’s largest domestic airline, has earned a reprieve with the aviation regulator extending a deadline to replace Pratt & Whitney (P&W) engines on its Airbus A320neo aircraft by four months to 31 May, a senior government official said on Monday.
The move would help IndiGo temporarily avert what seemed an imminent grounding of a large number of planes for not meeting the previous deadline of 31 January. This would have caused capacity problems as the airline, controlled by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, commands around half of the country’s civil aviation market.
IndiGo will, however, have to procure 135 engines, according to plans submitted to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Airbus, and P&W, said the official mentioned above requesting anonymity. Under an earlier plan, IndiGo was required to change 120 P&W engines by December 2019. The number of engines to be replaced has risen because of stringent new boroscopic inspections to ensure zero snags of planes mid-air, the official said.
P&W engines on A320neos have suffered repeated snags over the past few months causing large-scale flight disruptions affecting thousands of passengers and raising safety concerns. This has led DGCA to warn the Gurugram-based airline in November that its efforts to modify the glitch-prone older P&W engines on A320neo aircraft were not satisfactory. The Indian civil aviation regulator had intervened after four incidents of technical snags involving P&W-powered A320neo planes operated by IndiGo in October.
The airline has placed at least one modified engine in each of its P&W powered A320neo aircraft in its fleet ahead of the March 2020 deadline set by European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the European aviation regulator. Each aircraft has two engines. The regulator’s diktat required IndiGo to change at least one of the engines by March 2020.
“Incidentally, the procurement of modified engines was adversely impacted because of holidays during Christmas and New Year at maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities," the official said.
An IndiGo spokesperson said the airline will abide by DGCA’s guidelines.
All stakeholders, including airlines, Airbus and P&W, have made significant efforts towards replacing the older P&W engines on A320neo planes with modified engines, said the government official mentioned above.
“The stakeholders have jointly and severally submitted a complete action plan, which finds the change of engines for the entire fleet feasible by June end," the official said. The regulator feels this could be achieved by May, he added.
IndiGo has a fleet of 257 aircraft comprising 222 Airbus 320 planes, including 96 A320neo aircraft, 10 A321neo planes, and 25 ATR planes.
P&W has identified that fracture of mid turbine frame (MTF) piston seal accounts for half the low-pressure turbine (LPT) events, resulting in snags, said the official. “To prevent potential damage to the LPT third stage blades because of fracture of MTF piston seal, P&W issued a service bulletin on 16 December, to provide inspection criteria to perform a boroscopic inspection of the piston seal," the official said.