Software Error Could Be Responsible For SWISS A220 Engine Failures

A software fault could be to blame for Airbus A220 engine issues which caused the grounding of SWISS’s fleet. Earlier today, Reuters exclusively revealed that this was the cause according to people familiar with the problem.

Swiss, Airbus A220 Fleet, Airbus A220 Grounded
SWISS is the largest Airbus A220 operator at present. Photo: SWISS

Earlier this month we saw Lufthansa subsidiary SWISS ground its entire fleet of A220 aircraft. The aircraft were grounded in order for thorough engine inspections to take place following a series of engine failures. While some aircraft were already back in the air later that day, the grounding did have an effect on the airline’s short-haul operations. Now, we may know why, according to people close to the matter.

Why were SWISS’ Airbus A220s grounded?

SWISS’ entire fleet of 29 Airbus A220 aircraft was grounded earlier this month in order for engine inspections to take place. The inspections were ordered after a third engine failure occurred on a SWISS A220 in the space of as many months.

The third incident was the tip of the scale for SWISS, resulting in the entire fleet being grounded. Once on the ground, every single engine underwent a major check. Only after everything was checked, were the aircraft cleared to re-enter service. Thankfully the process didn’t take too long with all hands on deck, and most aircraft were checked after day two of the grounding.

Software Error Could Be Responsible For SWISS A220 Engine Failures
The aircraft type has encountered three similar engine issues in as many months. Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns via Wikimedia

What caused the failures?

The NTSB has been investigating the engine failures in collaboration with the French BEA. The BEA is searching for a missing piece from one of the engines on the ground in France. Between the 6th to the 8th of November, the BEA will conduct a detailed sweep of the search area.

However, today Reuters exclusively revealed that software could be to blame. The problems seem to have begun occurring since a software update was released earlier this year. This supposedly allows the engine to behave in a manner that allows destructive vibrations. According to Reuters’ unnamed sources, a software fix might not be available until the new year.

airBaltic, Airbus A220, Engine Replacement
Other operators have so far been unaffected. Photo: airBaltic

So what’s happening now?

The publication has noted that Pratt and Whitney have limited pilots to 95% of the available engine power above 29,000 feet. It describes such operations as “a demanding configuration currently only required by Swiss”. This gives an explanation as to why other Airbus A220 operators haven’t experienced similar incidents.

The NTSB and the BEA will continue their investigations into the engine failures in the meantime, while Pratt and Whitney work on the previously mentioned software fix for the aircraft. According to the publication, an Airbus spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.

Have you flown on one of SWISS’ Airbus A220s? What do you make of the engine issues? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.