In the wake of the SWISS shock grounding of its fleet of Airbus A220s, the question has to be asked: What about all the others? While SWISS is the world’s largest operator of the A220 right now, other carriers are not too far behind. We take a look at whether other airlines are likely to ground the aircraft for their own in depth inspections.
In September, the FAA had considered issuing an Airworthiness Directive (AD) for the A220 following several reported incidents involving the model. This was related to an oil supply issue, something which P&W addressed with service bulletins. However, the FAA is considering whether this is enough.
Unrelated to the oil supply issue, the PW 1500G had, earlier in the year, been identified as having issues with corrosion. This led the FAA to reduce the life limits of the A220 engine, publishing an NPRM at the time.
At this stage, it is not known what SWISS were checking for or whether any problems were identified. Indeed, within a few hours, inspected aircraft were returning to service. However, this doesn’t mean no other airlines will need to ground their A220s for inspections also. Let’s take a look at who could be affected.
Delta Air Lines
With 25 active A220 aircraft in its fleet, Delta is the second-largest operator of the A220 in the world, after SWISS. The carrier is renowned for being the only North American user of the A220, and for having the largest order in place of any airline, with 95 on the books.
Although a grounding of the A220 would have minimal impact on a large airline like Delta, it would still be felt. The airline told Simple Flying,
“Our A220 fleet is flying routinely. As you might be aware, there is a directive from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration that was issued perhaps 3-4 weeks ago about PW1500G engines that power the A220. We’re compliant with that directive as safety is always our top priority. Delta currently has 25 A220s in our fleet.
“Again, safety is always Delta’s top priority and we’ll always meet or exceed safety, inspection and maintenance recommendations from manufacturers as well as directives from the U.S. FAA.“
With 20 active A220 aircraft in its fleet, airBaltic is the world’s third-largest operator of the type. The Riga based carrier is partway through its move to become an all-Airbus A220 operator. As the launch operator for the A220-300 variant, airBaltic has a lot invested in this aircraft.
Indeed, with the vast majority of its fleet being A220-300s, airBaltic has more to lose than most if the aircraft was to be grounded. However, it doesn’t look like it will be taking this action anytime soon. In a statement released to Twitter, airBaltic commented,
“airBaltic is closely following engine manufacturer’s Pratt&Whitney recommendations on additional inspections that are carried out strictly in accordance to manufacturer specified schedule and guidelines to ensure the continued reliability of the airBaltic flight operations. airBaltic is working in close cooperation with Pratt & Whitney as well as the aircraft manufacturer Airbus.
“Safety is airBaltic’s top priority. While taking all the necessary precautions, airBaltic continues to operate its Airbus A220-300 fleet.
“airBaltic uses a different variant of the Pratt & Whitney PW1500G engine in contrast to SWISS. As confirmed by the manufacturer, the engines continue to meet all criteria for continued airworthiness.”
Safety is airBaltic’s top priority. While taking all the necessary precautions, airBaltic continues to operate its Airbus A220-300 fleet. pic.twitter.com/jYOC0R58gz
— airBaltic (@airBaltic) October 15, 2019
However, aviation analyst Alex Macheras noted that airBaltic had experienced its own problems with the P&W1500G engine. He claims that the airline has already replaced as many as 50 of the engines on its relatively small fleet of A220s.
At this point it’s worth highlighting @AirBaltic CEO told me the airline conducted 50 Pratt & Whitney engine replacements in less than two years(!) on its small fleet of Airbus A220 jets. pic.twitter.com/78pkoxk94y
— Alex Macheras (@AlexInAir) October 15, 2019
Aside from these airlines, the A220 is operated by three other airlines: Korean Air with 10, Air Tanzania with two and EgyptAir with two.
Korean Air’s 10 Airbus A220s were delivered from 2017 onwards. In January 2019, Flight Global reported that one of these aircraft suffered an engine failure to its P&W 1500G engine. The airline was reluctant to go into details about the problem but pictures circulating on social media suggested it was uncontained.
While a grounding would not affect the airline too drastically as it has many other aircraft, it would be an unwelcome loss of a lot of seats for the airline. We’ve reached out to Korean Air to see if they have an update on the situation.
Air Tanzania became the first A220 operator in Africa in December 2018. However, they too have had some issues with the aircraft. Just a couple of weeks ago, its A220-300 had to return to its point of origin following an engine failure.
EgyptAir only took delivery of its first A220 in early September, and has been using it on routes to Aswan, Luxor and Sharm el Sheikh. No incidents have been reported. Simple Flying has reached out to EgyptAir for comment.