IndiGo Takeoff Procedure Could Be Behind A320neo Engine Issues

The Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation has reportedly informed IndiGo that its pilots have been revving the engines too hard on the airline’s Airbus A320neos. This practice is believed to have been responsible for the large number of Pratt & Whitney engine failures on IndiGo’s Airbus A320neos.

An IndiGo Airbus A320neo
IndiGo has had problems with the engines on a number of its Airbus A320neos. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

Reports by Bloomberg yesterday have shed some light on the potential cause of the recurring engine failures which have plagued IndiGo’s Airbus A320neos.

India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation has been looking into IndiGo’s Airbus A320neo issues. So far this year, IndiGo has suffered 13 shutdowns of the Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engines fitted to its Airbus A320neos.

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Back at the start of November, the DGCA ordered IndiGo to replace the engines on its entire Airbus A320neo fleet, consisting of 98 aircraft in total. IndiGo was given just 13 weeks to complete the engine replacements for all of its Airbus A320neos. So far it has replaced just 86 engines, leaving 110 to complete by 31 January 2020.

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What did the DGCA find?

IndiGo’s Airbus A320neo troubles have seemed slightly odd to many observers since the beginning. Indigo may well have the largest fleet of Airbus A320neos in India, but it isn’t the only Indian carrier operating the type.

GoAir also operates a sizeable fleet of 38 Airbus A320neos. GoAir’s A320neos also have the same Pratt & Whitney engines as IndiGo’s aircraft. However, unlike IndiGo, GoAir has not suffered any turbofan engine shutdowns.

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A GoAir Airbus A320neo
GoAir’s Airbus A320neos have not suffered the same issues. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Flickr

The fact that the engine failures were limited to IndiGo’s aircraft was a pretty strong indication that they were the result of some sort of mishandling. The DGCA compared the operating practices of the two airlines to determine the root of the issue.

Although unconfirmed as of yet, Bloomberg’s sources appear to suggest that the DGCA has concluded that IndiGo’s throttle practices during takeoff are responsible for the engine failures.

Different practices at IndiGo and GoAir

Supposedly, IndiGo pilots usually take off using full throttle, as it can end up burning less fuel. In the highly competitive Asian low-cost airline industry, every little cost-saving counts. By comparison, GoAir pilots use what is known as the ‘alt-climb’ method, which does not involve applying maximum thrust during the initial ascent.

IndiGo’s full-throttle approach to takeoffs in its Airbus A320neos appears to have had a detrimental effect on their Pratt & Whitney engines. The additional stress placed on the engine components likely caused them to fail.

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

Now that the airline has been made aware of the issue, it will most likely alter its takeoff approach to reflect that of GoAir.

Although the cause of the issue may now have been identified, most of IndiGo’s Airbus A320neos have probably been affected by the full-throttle takeoff procedure already. It remains to be seen whether the DGCA will extend the deadline for IndiGo’s engine refit program.

Simple Flying has reached out to IndiGo for comment on the DGCA investigation, but unfortunately, the airline has not yet been able to respond.

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Frank

So IndiGo is messing with the throttle and Swiss is using full throttle at 30,000 feet on their A-220’s.

Didn’t anyone ever teach these guys to baby their equipment so that it lasts longer? Everyone knows a new car goes into the shop faster if you race around, working the brakes hard and racing the engine…

Lai Hong Yi

A penny wise pound foolish situation where IndiGO ended up spending more on maintenance just to save fuel costs.

Why Soitanly

Airbus relies on computer control “fly by wire” for almost all functions so why not restrict throttle over-use similarly? Should be easy to implement in code, and IndiGo may be the perfect testbed for refining new procedures. Restrictions would of course be situation-dependent, like fighters using full military power (110%) in combat. Not for everyday use, but for only “crunch-mode” operations.

TonytTDK

It’s a good point,
but,
why would AIrbus introduce another level of complexity to their systems
& introduce additional equipmentinto their aircraft,
when the problem can be easily solved by simply following Airbus’s own recommendations for take-off thrust settings.?

Kevin

Probably someone from the maintenance department at Indigo should have figured this out. Talk about an expensive lesson!

Gerry S

How could this happen? Every a/c manufacturer puts out clear procedurers for pilots to follow. Indigo obviously violated these. Sure would not feel safe in one of their a/c. What else are they doing wrong.

Lai Hong Yi

The engine manufacturer, P&W in this example would not care, because engine replacements are a source of revenue for the company.