Bloomberg reported that Airbus SE has stopped all deliveries of its all A320neo aircraft that are powered by Pratt & Whitney engines. This was done due to the latest revelation that there were a series of problems in the next-gen Pratt & Whitney engines.
One of Airbus’ biggest customers for this type of aircraft, IndiGo, India’s number one carrier, announced on Saturday that it had withdrawn 3 A320neo aircraft and also cancelled some of its flights.
The updated news report from Bloomberg reported that the low-cost airline suffered 3 in-flight shutdowns, and faced three more instances of pilots having to turn around before taking off because of engine issues.
The decision was taken after the European Aviation Safety Agency released a warning that fresh issues with the engine program could lead to in-flight engine shut downs. The Agency said that it was continuing its investigation into the root cause of the issue.
According to IndiGo spokesman Ajay Jasra, the Product Safety boards of both Pratt & Whitney and Airbus were working together closely to resolve the issue and would communicate plans on normalizing operations as well as when deliveries of the A320neo would resume. He also said that replacing the engine was the best possible solution to the problem. However, until a proper fix is found, all A320neo deliveries have been kept on hold.
Pratt & Whitney is a unit of American conglomerate United Technologies Corp. The company has suffered recent blows to its credibility with a series of problems with its next-gen aircraft engine. This latest glitch has just given the unit another blow just as it was recovering from the previous issues. Unfortunately, these new set of troubles come immediately after Airbus CEO Tom Enders gave the unit a vote of confidence, stating that the engine’s issues had all been resolved.
As a result of these problems with the turbines, the Agency has mandated that those planes with both engines affected have to be grounded within three flight cycles. Those with one engine compromised have been restricted from flying certain extended-range routes.
According to sources in the know, 11 of the 113 A320neos already delivered have been grounded because of the problem with the Pratt & Whitney engine. In total, 43 engines that are in service have been identified to have engine problems and turbines at both the Airbus as well as the Pratt & Whitney facilities have also been found to have problems. These glitches have all been found in the latest batches of turbines that have come off Pratt & Whitney’s assembly line.
The A320neo is Airbus’ most important product. The company makes 50 of these aircraft per month and the company’s promise that the upgraded A320neo offers huge savings in terms of fuel efficiency with its new turbines has made the aircraft the fastest seller in the history of aviation.
Thus, this new problem is also a huge blow for Airbus. The world’s second largest aircraft maker has been beset by glitches with its latest planes such as delays in the A350 wide-body stemming, seat problems as well as the latest engine problems with the new A320neos and A330neos. In an environment when standards have become more exacting with regarding to quality, durability and performance, these problems are impacting the company badly.
Shares of Pratt & Whitney’s parent company, United Technologies fell by 1.9%, the biggest drop in the Dow 30 list, while Airbus suffered a 2.3% decline in Paris. IndiGo also was affected as the shares of its parent company InterGlobe Aviation Ltd. dropped by 1.7% in the Mumbai Stock Exchange.