On Wednesday an IndiGo Airbus A320neo was forced to return to Kolkata shortly after departing for Pune because of an engine stall. The incident swayed India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation in its decision to order IndiGo to replace the engines on its entire Airbus A320neo fleet.
An IndiGo Airbus A320neo performing flight 6E-862 experienced an engine stall shortly after take-off from Kolkata en route to Pune on Wednesday 30 October. The 3.1-year-old Airbus A320neo, registered VT-ITM, was climbing out of Kolkata airport when it experienced the stall in its left engine.
According to The Aviation Herald’s incident report, the stall occurred when the aircraft was at around 8000 feet. The crew followed checklist procedure and then returned to Kolkata airport. The aircraft landed just 16 minutes after departure, without any injuries or damage.
Pratt & Whitney’s engines playing up again
Wednesday’s incident was the latest in a series of engine problems IndiGo’s Airbus A320neos have suffered recently.
But the issue is by no means limited to IndiGo – airlines around the world have been struck by the same engine issues. In this case, it is specifically the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G geared turbofan engines that have been causing trouble.
The Airbus A320neo came with two engine options; the first was the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G and the second was the CFM International LEAP-1A. The Pratt & Whitney engine has been experiencing significant issues with excessive engine vibrations and wear to certain components.
According to a LiveMint article from early September, there were 127 Pratt & Whitney-powered Airbus A320neos operating in India, out of a global total of 436. This means that Indian carriers IndiGo and GoAir have both been disproportionately affected.
A tough response from India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation
As a result of the increasing number of issues with Pratt & Whitney-powered Airbus A320neos in India, India’s civil aviation authority, the DGCA has taken decisive action. Pratt & Whitney has reportedly come up with a fix for the PW1100G issues, which involves fitting new turbines. But it’s too little, too late for Indian carriers.
On 29 October, the DGCA ordered both IndiGo and GoAir to replace the engines all of their Airbus A320neos which had accumulated more than 3,000 flight hours. They had 15 days to complete the engine swap.
However, Wednesday’s incident aboard flight 6E-862, as well as two similar incidents in the two days prior, pushed the DGCA into issuing an even stronger order to IndiGo.
Yesterday the DGCA ordered IndiGo to replace every single PW1100G engine on its fleet of Airbus A320neos. In total, that amounts to 98 aircraft and 196 engines. Even more challenging for IndiGo is the fact that it has been ordered to complete this engine swap program by 31 January 2020. That gives the airline just 13 weeks.
Presumably, GoAir will be issued a similar order if, or when, its Airbus A320neos suffer further engine issues.
In its statement to IndiGo, the DGCA said:
“We regret the inconvenience but we need desperate measures to put things in order.”
IndiGo has informed Simple Flying that, “The aircraft is currently withdrawn from operations and is under maintenance inspections.”