Hundreds of passengers on at least 47 flights endured hours of flight delays when Indian Aviation authorities grounded 11 Airbus aircraft operated by two budget carriers over faulty engines.
The Directorate of the General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) ordered the grounding of A320neos operated by IndiGo and GoAir that are fitted with Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engines with certain serial numbers, according to Indian media.
Due to the grounding — resulting in dozens of flight cancellations — hundreds of passengers were stranded across India on Tuesday as IndiGo and GoAir flights were cancelled.
Details were not immediately clear as there were no details of the flights or passengers affected, NDTV reported. Airlines said, however, that arrangements are being made to "minimise" the impact.
"The affected passengers would be accommodated on other flights on our network," IndiGo said in a statement.
The Indian aviation regulator said that A320 Neos fitted with PW1100 engines beyond ESN 450 have been grounded with "immediate effect" on Monday.
The regulator’s order came hours after an IndiGo aircraft fitted with engine encountered a mid-air glitch shortly after take-off from Ahmedabad to Lucknow, which forced the pilot to return to Ahmedabad.
DGCA said it has not got a “firm commitment” from the US engine manufacturer to address fresh safety concerns, which forced it to ground the fleet.
IndiGo cancels 47 flights today after grounding of aircraft further to the DGCA directions which were issued in the interest of safety. A320neos aircraft fitted with PW1100 engines were grounded with immediate effect by DGCA yesterday.— ANI (@ANI) March 13, 2018
Engine shutdown incidents
On February 9, European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) warning of a potential “dual engine” inflight shutdown on A320neo-family aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1100G geared turbofan (GTF) engines.
Following the EASA alert, three incidents of in-flight shutdowns of the affected engines (beyond engine serial number 450) were recorded — on a GoAir flight on February 24, on an IndiGo flight from Mumbai on March 5, and on the IndiGo flight from Ahmedabad on Monday.
DGCA grounded all A320neos fitted with the said engines "with immediate effect".
"Both IndiGo and GoAir have been told not to refit these engines, which are spare with them in their inventory,” DGCA said.
The glitch was traced to a "knife-edge seal" on the engine’s high-pressure compressor that was introduced as a modification in late 2017.
Following the EASA directive in February, Airbus had suspended the delivery of A320neo aircraft equipped with the affected engine model.
In a statement, Pratt & Whitney said: “We are working closely with our customers to minimise disruption. The corrective action has been approved and we have already begun to deliver production engines with the upgraded configuration. We are working to mitigate the AOG (aircraft on ground) situation by the end of the second quarter.”
NDTV reported that under the engine maker's plan, all defective components would be replaced by early June — requiring some planes to fly with one affected engine for almost three more months.
That "solution" was deemed unacceptable by the regulator, which said the manufacturer had "no concrete proposal in place at this stage."
At least three IndiGo planes were already on the ground following similar engine problems reported last month, according to Indian media.
In February, European authorities cited the problem with the PW1100G engines, which resulted in certain restrictions being imposed on flying such aircraft.
Three IndiGo aircraft fitted with both affected engines were grounded then, while eight aircraft with only one affected engine were allowed to fly under certain restrictions.
“EASA has informed that they are evaluating some interim proposals and will be revising the emergency airworthiness directive in due course, as soon as the current affected engines will be modified with a safer interim design," the DGCA said in a statement.
"P&W, in their latest communication, has also not given any firm commitment as to when the issue on the engine… will be resolved, and informed that all the affected engines will be replaced by early June 2018. There is no concrete proposal in place at this stage to address the issue,” the DGCA added.
IndiGo, for its part, said they will comply with the directive.
“We are in receipt of the communication from the DGCA and we shall comply promptly with the directions of the DGCA. Upon implementation of the directive, IndiGo shall have a total of nine A320neo aircraft on ground. The affected passengers will be accommodated on other flights on our network,” an IndiGo spokesperson said.
GoAir, too, confirmed receipt of the missive from the aviation regulator.
“GoAir has received the directive from the DGCA for immediate grounding of all late serial number P&W engines. We have complied immediately. GoAir is committed to the highest standards of safety and compliance and we sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to our valued customers. We are altering flight schedules and communicating the same to those affected by the last minute changes; we are making all possible arrangements to minimise the impact,” a GoAir spokesperson said.
A320neos operated by Indian airlines
32 - IndiGo
13 - GoAir