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About 40% of domestic capacity is served by P&W-powered Airbus A320neo aircraft, the regulator said. (Bloomberg)
About 40% of domestic capacity is served by P&W-powered Airbus A320neo aircraft, the regulator said. (Bloomberg)

Grounding A320neos will have consequences: DGCA

  • Strong mitigation measures in place to contain the problem, says aviation regulator
  • DGCA meets officials of IndiGo and GoAir to take stock of the glitches faced by P&W engines

Any knee-jerk reaction to completely shut down operations of the Pratt and Whitney (P&W)-powered Airbus A320neo aircraft will have serious consequences, considering that about 40% of domestic capacity is served by these aircraft, civil aviation regulator said in a statement on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had called an urgent meeting with officials of no-frills carriers IndiGo and GoAir to take stock of the glitches faced by P&W engines.

“It is true that there have been cases of air turn back, in-flight shutdown or engine vibrations beyond the prescribed limits, but with strong mitigation measures in place and strict adherence to SOPs (standard operating procedures) by the airlines, the problem is being contained," DGCA said, adding that the regulator will continue to ground aircraft and seek engine change whenever P&W engine glitches are detected on A320neo aircraft.

DGCA added that it will take the harshest action, should the need arise.

In the past few months, IndiGo and GoAir, which operate Airbus A320neo planes, faced several glitches, often leading to temporary grounding.

More than 30 engine incidents and snags have been reported by the IndiGo- and GoAir-operated Airbus A320neo planes so far in 2019, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said, requesting anonymity.

Mint could not independently verify this figure.

IndiGo, GoAir and P&W spokespeople were not immediately available for comments.

The DGCA further said major issues ever since the induction of P&W engine-powered A320neo aircraft included “combustion chamber distress (Block B and Block C)", “N2 transient vibration", “low-pressure turbine (LPT) failure", “gear box failure" and “#3 Bearing Pre Mod and Post Mod failures".

While the issues related to combustion chamber distress, No.3 bearing seal failures and high pressure compressor (HPC) rear knife-edge seal failures have been addressed, the DGCA said the manufacturer is in the process of implementing mitigation actions in respect to gear box failure, LPT failure and engine vibrations.

The DGCA said all new inductions of A320/321neo aircraft after August must be installed with the modified main gear box and new third stage LPT blades. Non-compliance would lead to restriction to lease these engines, it added.

IndiGo, the world’s largest customer for the Airbus A320neo, has ordered 430 such aircraft. GoAir has ordered 144 A320neo planes. While IndiGo has taken delivery of 92 jets as of July, GoAir has received 35 aircraft.

The P&W-powered A320neos have been facing snags for a while now. The regulator had temporarily grounded 11 A320neo aircraft in early 2018, before eventually withdrawing the order after Airbus and P&W assured the regulator and the airlines that the glitches will be fixed.

In January, the DGCA issued further directives for IndiGo and GoAir, which included weekly inspection of engines, and other directions for passenger safety. The regulator also imposed restrictions on using the A320neo planes, powered by P&W engines, for longer flights to destinations like Port Blair where emergency landing is difficult to execute.

“The DGCA is continuously monitoring the performance of these engines and taking appropriate proactive measures as and when required including grounding of aircraft in the interest of safety and further remedial measure if necessitated, will be taken," the DGCA said in its statement.

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