Earlier today, a Swiss International Airlines Bombardier CSeries CS300 (rebranded as Airbus A220) flying from London to Geneva had to divert to Paris. According to the Aviation Herald, the diversion was made because of a problem with one of the engines, which had to be shut down. France’s BEA (Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la Sécurité de l’Aviation Civile) rated the incident as ‘serious’. Investigators have been dispatched to examine the engine.
The Airbus A220 involved in the incident was performing flight LX359 from London Heathrow to Geneva when it had to divert to Paris Chales de Gaulle whilst over Belgian airspace. The aircraft is designated with registration HB-JCC and according to Airfleets, is a two year old jet. Aviation Herald confirmed with the airline that there was an irregularity with one of the engines.
This latest incident prompted SWISS to ground its entire A220 fleet, currently the world’s largest fleet at 29. A spokesperson for SWISS told Simple Flying that the grounding of their Airbus A220 fleet started at midday today.
The latest in a series of engine issues
Today the BEA had reported that two previous incidents on July 25th and September 16th were “identical”. In fact, a week after the September in-flight shutdown (IFSD) incident, Pratt & Whitney issued a directive to inspect all engines affected:
“These IFSDs were due to failure of the LPC R1, which resulted in the LPC R1 releasing from the LPC case and damaging the engine…LPC rotor failures historically have released high-energy debris that has resulted in damage to engines and airplanes.” -US Federal Aviation Administration
The FAA continues by adding:
“Both failures of the LPC R1 occurred at low flight cycles since new…The manufacturer has recommended that these inspections occur within the next 50 flight cycles and the FAA has adopted that recommendation. Based on current operational usage of the affected airplanes, 50 flight cycles equates to approximately 7 to 10 operating days.”
In fact, engine issues have been the Achilles heel of the Airbus A220 program ever since it was known as the Bombardier CSeries. In 2016, an engine fire grounded Bombardier’s CSeries test aircraft fleet. After investigation, the incident was blamed on a series of technical malfunctions.
Then, in the early stages of the aircraft’s production, The Hartford Courant reported in 2017 that Pratt & Whitney was working hard to overcome “durability issues affecting the geared turbofan engines that power the C Series”. These production issues caused even more delays to the program.
We reached out to Pratt & Whitney for a comment and here’s what they said regarding the incident:
“Pratt & Whitney, working in coordination with airlines has supported successful visual boroscope inspections of the first stage of the low pressure compressor (LPC) for the PW1500G engines on A220 aircraft. Aircraft have started to return to service after these comprehensive engine inspections. The company will continue to work with Airbus and its mutual airline customers to minimize operational disruption.”
It’s unclear if other airlines will follow suit and ground their A220 fleets. A grounding of this magnitude would add to the turbulent year of commercial aviation in 2019. The 737 MAX crisis and the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000’s issues have been the biggest so far this year.
Do you think we will see yet another crisis unfold with this aircraft type? Let us know by leaving a comment.