An airBaltic Airbus A220-300 en route from Latvia to Spain had to be diverted and land in France after encountering an engine problem. The incident joins a growing list of similar incidents involving the A220.

The aircraft, registered YL-AAU, was carrying out flight BT677 from Riga Airport (RIX), Latvia, to Malaga Airport (AG), Spain, on February 12, 2020. There were 149 passengers on board. 

About an hour and a half into the flight, as they were approaching the Pyrenees Mountains, pilots reported a left engine shut down. The flight was diverted to Bordeaux Airport (BOD), France, where it landed safely. The passengers were disembarked, and airBaltic ferried a replacement plane.

The damaged aircraft was delivered to airBaltic in November 2019. The French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) said it would carry out an investigation.

Recurring incidents

The BEA is already in charge of a triple investigation regarding engine failures that affected three A220s operated by Swiss International Air Lines. It is carried out with the assistance of the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). 

In November 2019, the Bureau organized a voluntary search for the missing parts of one of the PW1524G engines that suffered an uncontained failure. Investigators were specifically looking for titanium parts of the first stage of the low-pressure compressor (LPC).

Answering the call of the French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA), volunteers recovered parts of the Swiss Air Airbus A220 that suffered an uncontained engine failure earlier in 2019.

On October 26, 2019, Transport Canada issued a directive stating that pilots of both the A220-100 and A220-300 models must fly at 94% of their full thrust capacity when they are over 29,000 feet (about 9 kilometers) of altitude. The automatic throttle control must be disabled before climbing at this altitude. 

“Preliminary investigation results indicate high altitude climbs at higher thrust settings for engines with certain thrust ratings may be a contributor” to engine in-flight shutdowns, said the authority. The directive was initially issued by Airbus and Pratt & Whitney.

Transport Canada, the Canadian civil aviation authority, has issued an emergency airworthiness directive to reduce the engine thrust of Airbus A220 aircraft under certain conditions after several engine incidents were reported.

Operators of the A220 family, formerly Bombardier C Series, expect a software update for the GTF engine from Pratt & Whitney. “We’re going to have a software drop that comes out later this year that will automate everything and enable us to reduce or eliminate all the inspections that we’re currently having to perform, but that again is pending regulatory approval,” Graham Webb, vice president of Pratt & Whitney commercial engine programs, told Reuters. “It’s a very strange and very complex issue that occurs at high altitude and high speeds,” he added.