Indian aviation authorities are not convinced Pratt & Whitney 1100 series engines are safe enough. Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued a notice ordering the country’s two airlines – GoAir and IndiGo – to implement additional engine safety measures, as well as prohibiting them from operating Airbus A320neo aircraft that uses the engines on a certain route.
The DGCA’s public notice, dated January 17, 2019, states that imposed measures are linked to “impending failures in dry face seal and LPT” of the engines. The requirements include weekly LPT (Low Pressure Turbine) inspections, raising flight crews’ awareness of smoke and odors, as well as restriction to use A320neo aircraft on flights to Port Blair. Port Blair is a union territory of India situated in the Bay of Bengal, thus, to reach it overseas flights are needed.
Currently, all major Indian airlines fly to Port Blair. The country’s national carrier Air India uses A320neo aircraft, but equipped with CFM LEAP engines. Vistara operates older generation Airbus A320s, while SpiceJet and Jet Airways fly to Port Blair using Boeing aircraft, according to flightradar24.com information.
The latest DGCA directive was imposed after India’s civil aviation authorities met with the representative of the two airlines, Pratt & Whitney and Airbus. A week after the directive was imposed, the DGCA’s warning has not affected operations on the route, as GoAir switched to planes equipped with non-Pratt & Whitney engines, while IndiGo began using A320neos with “safer” P&W engine models, according to Times of India.
In March 2018, the DGCA had already expressed deep distrust in PW 1100 engines, grounding IndiGo and GoAir’s aircraft with the said engine, affected by faulty compressor seals. A month earlier, in February 2018, both the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the U.S. Federal Aviation Association (FAA) issued airworthiness directives (AD).
EASA’s emergency airworthiness directive (AD) for Airbus A320 and A321 (the A320-271N, A321-271N, A321-272N) aircraft indicated several occurrences of engine in-flight shutdown (IFSD) and rejected take-off (RTO), while FAA’s warning cited a “knife edge seal failure” in the engine that could lead to an engine stall “and consequent inflight shutdown and rejected takeoffs”.
Go Air currently has 30 Airbus A320neos powered by PW1100-JM, while IndiGo has 67, according to planespotters.net data. Both airlines began taking deliveries of the aircraft in 2016 and have experienced series of the engine-related problems, forcing to ground their planes on several occasions.
Pratt & Whitney might already have a new problem with the PW1100-JM engine, this time related to the main gearbox. Based on unconfirmed media reports that the company is currently undertaking a “root cause” analysis, results on which are expected promptly.