India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered IndiGo to replace every single engine on its Pratt & Whitney powered A320neo family aircraft in just 13 weeks. This means that, across its fleet of 98 neos, 196 engines must be replaced by the end of January, otherwise those aircraft will be grounded.
13 weeks to replace 196 engines
Following on from the news that both IndiGo and GoAir had 15 days to replace at least one engine on a handful of their Pratt & Whitney powered A320neos, the DCGA has now ruled that all the engines must be replaced in just 13 weeks. This comes just days after IndiGo placed a massive order for more A320neo family jets, solidifying its position as Airbus’ largest customer of the type.
The Financial Express reports that, as a result of several recent incidents involving IndiGo’s P&W powered A320neo family jets, the DGCA has now instructed IndiGo to replace all the engines on all its neo jets, which number 98. With 196 engines across the fleet to replace, this sounds like a tough ask by the operator.
IndiGo reportedly has until January 31st, 2020, to comply, otherwise it could be faced with a grounding of any that have not had the modified engine installed. The DGCA apologized to IndiGo for the inconvenience, but stated that it needed ‘desperate measures to put things in order’.
In addition to this, the airline has been asked to change at least one engine on a number of planes more urgently. As well as the 16 that it was directed to attend to earlier this week, a further seven have been added to the list, making a total of 23. These must be dealt with by November 19th.
Four failures in a week
The DGCA ruling comes in the wake of a week of issues on the neo aircraft for IndiGo. The Times of India reported yesterday on the latest incident, which involved an A320neo stalling on takeoff when traveling from Kolkata to Pune. The aircraft, registered VT-ITM, returned safely to the airport and is now grounded there. A senior DGCA spokesperson told the Economic Times,
“On Wednesday, IndiGo A320neo, operating as 6W-862 saw engine 1 stall and experience high vibration while climbing through 10,000 feet. Crew reduced thrust of this engine to idle and vibration reduced. The affected engine was not shut down in flight. The aircraft returned to land safely in Kolkata and is grounded there.”
Ground crews confirmed that the third stage low pressure turbine (LPT) on this engine was damaged. This is a known issue with the P&W engine, and one which the supplier has developed a fix for. However, in light of the number and frequency of incidents, India’s civil aviation regulator has said that enough is enough.
The incident on Wednesday was the latest of four in a week for IndiGo. On October 24th, VT-IVX had an engine stall amid high vibration during its climb at around 27,000 feet. On the 25th, VT-ITA experienced the same problem. And then on October 26th, VT-IZT flying from Delhi to Goa had a very similar problem when coming out of the airport.
Clearly, this is an issue requiring urgent attention. Engines affected seem to develop problems after 2,900 hours, so as IndiGo’s extensive fleet of neos begins to age, so these incidents will become more frequent. While losing one engine is not too much of an issue for a jet, losing both could have disastrous consequences.
Although there is likely to be some disruption to the IndiGo schedule, the airline has told CNBC that it is working closely with P&W as well as Airbus, and that its schedule, at least for now, remains intact.