Indian Airlines Ordered To Change Some A320neo Engines Or Face Grounding

India’s civil aviation regulator the  Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered both IndiGo and GoAir to replace engines on some of their A320neos in just 15 days. The affected aircraft are those which have been used for over 3,000 hours, and it is believed that a total of 29 aircraft will be impacted.

GoAir and IndiGo A320neo grounding
GoAir and IndiGo have been threatened with grounding. Photo: GoAir

15 days to make the change

The DGCA is not messing around with its order on GoAir. The airline has just two weeks to replace all the engines on its A320neos which have clocked up more than 3,000 flight hours, otherwise it could face grounding of its fleet. The DGCA insists that all the aircraft must be fitted with at least one modified Pratt & Whitney low-pressure turbine engine in order for the airline to be compliant.

GoAir and IndiGo A320neo grounding
IndiGo is the world’s biggest operator of the A320neo family. Photo: Airbus

This follows on from a similar order issued to rival low-cost carrier IndiGo yesterday, forcing it to replace engines on 16 of its A320neos. IndiGo was also instructed to become compliant within 15 days. Both airlines have been told to stop flying these aircraft with immediate effect until the engine issues have been resolved.

What’s the problem with the neo?

Many airlines operating the A320neo and A321neo aircraft have experienced problems with the P&W 1100 series engines. Issues have included engine vibration, gearbox failures and combustion chamber distress.

According to the DGCA, as reported in LiveMint, there have been as many as 15 inflight shutdowns, turnarounds or rejected takeoffs experienced by Indian carriers over the past three years. At the current time, only IndiGo and GoAir operate the A320neo.

IndiGo currently only have A320 family aircraft. Photo: Airbus

IndiGo previously shunned any further P&W engines for its neos, placing a $2bn order instead with rival CFM. Despite the problems, IndiGo appears buoyant regarding its Airbus future, as just today it placed an order for no less than 300 of the type. While the engine selection has not been announced, it is unlikely P&W will be in the running.

P&W has a fix in place

P&W has said that the combustion chamber issues have been resolved, and that they are working on a fix for the other problems. More durable ow pressure turbine blades are being incorporated to address problems with LPT failure, and a newly designed piston seal is hoped to be a solution to the vibration problems.

Pratt & Whitney told Simple Flying,

“Pratt & Whitney is working in coordination with our airline customers to incorporate upgrades improving the durability of the low pressure turbine in the PW1100G-JM fleet to address a known issue. We certified hardware improvements which are incorporated into all new production engines and during planned maintenance visits. We are committed to supporting our customers to ensure minimal disruption during the fleet retrofit.
“Since entering service in 2016, GTF engines have achieved more than 4 million flight hours of passenger service while providing significant fuel efficiency, noise and emissions benefits.”
GoAir and IndiGo A320neo grounding
GoAir recently received its 50th plane. Photo: GoAir

Since August 2019, the DGCA has made it mandatory that both operators of the A320neo no longer accept engines without the modifications. No engines from MRO units are allowed to be accepted without these improvements either; this extends to lease engines also.

Even though only half of the 29 aircraft engines need to be swapped out, it’s still a mega undertaking for both airlines. While IndiGo is unlikely to feel too much impact from having 16 aircraft out of service (with over 200 still in operation) GoAir’s more modest fleet of just 53 will be severely hampered with 13 out of action. Whether they meet the 15 day deadline remains to be seen.