How Rain Caused An Airbus A220 Engine To Shut Down

Transport Canada issued an airworthiness directive late last week for operators of the Airbus A220. It follows a problem with water dripping into the forward avionics bay. Operators of the A220 have 12 months to comply. Otherwise, they will not be able to operate the A220 in Canada.

Transport Canada has issued an airworthiness directive for the A220 after rain got into an avionics bay. Photo: Airbus

Water dripped into the forward avionics bay

According to Transport Canada, there was an in-service A220 engine shutdown incident while taxiing. The date and location of the incident did not get disclosed.

An investigation found water got into the avionics bay. That caused a short circuit, tripping a circuit breaker that led to an engine shutdown. It was found that water got in during a rainstorm while the main cabin entry door was open. The drains overflowed, and the water dripped into the avionics bay.

As occurred in this incident, that could lead to short-circuiting, the loss of air data sources, a reduction in functional capabilities, and an increase in crew workload.

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What changes are required

The airworthiness directive requires A220 operators to install blanking plates on certain drains and block off the associated drain tubing to prevent any water from getting into the avionics bay in the future. Operators are required to do this by removing existing forward galley slotted drain covers and replacing them with solid blanking plates and blocking off the associated drain tubing.

Canada is the home base of the Airbus A220 program, with the factory at Mirabel, near Montreal. A220 operations in Mirabel include program management, engineering, customer support, and services, as well as the program’s main final assembly line.

After a slow start, the A220 has gone on to sell well. Photo: Airbus

Montreal-based Bombardier ceded control of the A220 program to Airbus in 2018. Now, the Airbus Canada Limited Partnership owns the A220 program, with 75% held by Airbus, and 25% by the Government of Québec.

Shifting fortunes for the A220 program

Off a slow start, the A220 program powered ahead after Bombardier sold. According to Joanna Bailey in Simple Flying, the new owners sold half as many A220s in one year as Bombardier had in the previous decade.

Ms Bailey puts a lot of this down to the Airbus brand and the halo effect this creates. She also notes that a shifting aviation environment came to favor smaller, fuel-efficient, regional jets like the A220.

The A220 has gone on to sell well and prove popular with passengers and airlines alike. However, there have been some incidents. A spate of engine issues, mostly in Europe, saw the A220 in the headlines last year.

The FAA issued its own airworthiness directive concerning the A220 earlier this year after four engine shutdown incidents. The engine shutdowns occurred after the failure of the low-pressure compressor.

Air Canada operates eight A220s and is expecting 45 in total. Photo: Airbus

Air Canada has a big investment in the A220

In Canada, national airline Air Canada operates eight A220-300s, with the first delivered in late 2019. The airline has 45 on order. Air Canada had high expectations for the plane.

“We welcome this game-changing aircraft into our fleet, the next step in our fleet modernization. It will not only allow us to transport our customers in comfort, but also further our environmental commitment with its improved efficiency,” said Michael Rousseau, Air Canada’s Deputy CEO at the time.

But Air Canada will be pulling its A220s out of service for a brief time to make the changes required by Transport Canada. Any other airline wishing to operate A220s in Canada, including Delta Air Lines, will also need to comply with the airworthiness directive.