A320neo: Trouble In Modified Engine Sparks Concern

GoAir aircraft - Aviatorsbuzz
Representational picture of a GoAir aircraft. Source: Devang Aviation/Twitter

In what appears to be a fresh set of troubles for the Pratt and Whitney powered engines of Airbus’ A320neo, pilots of a GoAir flight had to shut one ‘modified’ engine mid-air after it encountered problems recently.

The incident is reported to have taken place on September 19 on an Ahmedabad-bound flight. Sources said that both the engines’ turbines had already been modified as per the diktat of aviation safety regulator, Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Bloomberg reported that Indian regulators are looking into faults in the engine’s heat-management and oil systems as possible causes and the incident had revived concerns about the turbines that have been plagued by issues since their debut in early 2016.

The twin-engine jet, Bloomberg said was operated by GoAir, landed safely using its other engine. “Both the engines’ turbines had already been modified following repeated glitches, the people said. Indian regulators are looking into faults in the engine’s heat-management and oil systems as possible causes, one of the people told Bloomberg.

A GoAir representative didn’t respond to requests for comment. Airbus said the incident was an “identified topic” and referred questions about repair to Pratt and Whitney. The engine maker declined to comment. A representative for the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), which oversees the DGCA, didn’t respond to a request for comment, Bloomberg said.

The latest problem adds another layer to the woes of Pratt and Whitney, which is owned by Raytheon Technologies Corp. The new engine for narrow-body jets has cost $10 billion to develop but has faced delivery delays and multiple issues leading to midair shutdowns.

IndiGo, the biggest customer for Airbus’s best-selling A320neo, decided last year to switch away from the engines, placing a $20 billion order instead with rival CFM International Inc., a venture between General Electric Co. and France’s Safran SA.

Outside of durability issues and delivery delays, Indian regulators have been concerned about Pratt’s so-called third-stage low-pressure turbine blades.

India, where the most popular narrow-body market is dominated by the A320neo, mandated in 2019 that all engines must modify that particular component with a different material “less susceptible to impact damage.”

Without that tweak, such as was implemented on the GoAir jet, pilots are at risk of one or more engines failing, losing control or worse, crashing the aircraft, according to the DGCA.

The Bloomberg report said it wasn’t immediately clear how many passengers were on board the jet that took off from Hyderabad. The plane, registered VT-WGK, didn’t fly again until October 8, data from flight tracking website flightradar24.com shows.

India last month ordered GoAir to ground jets that hadn’t had their Pratt and Whitney engines modified to the specifications mandated by the DGCA.

IndiGo, operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., had already modified all of its engines after regulators granted repeated extensions to meet requirements. Commercial jets can typically fly on one engine even if the other fails.

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