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Last Updated : Mar 21, 2018 01:56 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Did IndiGo ignore warning signals on A320neo fleet? DGCA flagged possible problems 6 months ago

There is also a question of time slots that Indigo may end up losing if the cancellations continue. As per DGCA rules, slots allotted to an airline will be cancelled if the airline does not utilize them for a period of one month

Gaurav Choudhury

IndiGo, India’s largest domestic airline by market share, is perhaps facing its worst crisis with eight of its new Airbus A320neo jets grounded, hit by a string of engine snags, forcing tens of flights to be cancelled or rescheduled and upsetting travel plans of hundreds.

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to file an affidavit as required under the Aircraft Rules on the safety and airworthiness of the A320neo planes flying in India.

The order by the bench came after the petitioner, Yashwant Shenoy, told the court that there have been 100 engine failures in connection with the A320neos. These planes are not allowed in the US and European airspace in accordance with EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) directives, he claimed.

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"Let DGCA say they are safe," the court said.

There is also a question of time slots that IndiGo may end up losing if the cancellations continue. As per DGCA rules, slots allotted to an airline will be cancelled if the airline does not utilise them for a period of one month.

IndiGo has cancelled 406 domestic & international flights between March 16 and March 31.

An IndiGo spokesperson told Moneycontrol that the company would not comment on this story.

Airbus offers a choice between engines manufactured by two companies for being fitted into the planes – Pratt & Whitney’s (P&W) PurePower PW1100G-JM and CMF International’s LEAP-1A. P&W is an arm of the US-based United Technologies. CMF is a joint venture between US-based GE Aviation and French firm Safran Aircraft Engines.

DGCA told the court that there were engine failure problems in the modified A320neos, which numbered 14 and were grounded. The remaining were not modified and therefore a conscious decision was taken to not ground them.

Reports now say that P&W has undertaken to replace all the faulty engines within 40 days. Between 30 days for slot cancellation and 40-day delivery, it should be a small task for the 6E carrier.

According to DGCA documents that Moneycontrol has reviewed, there were 69 engine failures in IndiGo’s A320neo fleet as of September 15, 2017. The first was delivered to IndiGo on March 11, 2016, implying 69 engine failures in 18 months or four a month or 1 every week.

Questions are now being raised on why the airline on its own didn’t decide to ground the A320neo fleet when such incidents of engine failure were being reported every week. The planes were only grounded in February when the EASA intervened.

There have been at least two cases, as DGCA documents indicate, where both engines of aircraft required replacement. While rare, there is a possibility of both engines failing during a flight. Safety issues had forced Qatar Airways to cancel the A320neo order.

According to reports, engine manufacturer Pratt and Whitney has said that 98 engines on A320neo aircraft may be prone to shutting down.

IndiGo’s current fleet comprises 155 Airbus A320 planes and four ATRs. The low-cost carrier’s Airbus family has 31 A320neos.

GoAir, another domestic low cost carrier, has grounded 3 of 13 A320neo jets & cancelled 16 domestic flights since March 12.

How it all started

These planes have been riddled with glitches since 2016, when they were first inducted. Initially, the problems included slow engine start-up times leading to delays and erroneous software messages to the pilots, but the situation has worsened since. Several instances of engines shutting down during flights and rejected take-offs have been reported on certain Airbus A320neo planes, forcing regulators to ground many of them.

Why India is bearing the bruntIndia has about 40 percet of the Neos flying worldwide, bringing them much more in focus here. One can easily differentiate an Airbus A320neo from an older Airbus A320 (most of the IndiGo and GoAir fleet) by looking at their size - Neo planes have a bigger engine.
First Published on Mar 20, 2018 08:49 pm
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