More than 15 passenger jets belonging to Indian airlines reported engine damage while in the air in 2017 — the highest in six years — according to the civil aviation regulator’s data till August.
A Hindustan Times report stated that three of the 15 engine failures were raised serious questions about the country's aviation safety. On two occasions, an engine caught fire during take-off and in a different incident, the high-pressure turbine blade of an engine came off while on air.
“All three cases were of serious nature as anything could have happened to the aircraft. The passengers had a narrow escape,” an official in the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) told the paper.
“An aircraft is inspected before passenger boarding. There are instances of flaws getting detected during inspection. In such cases, we ground the plane,” the official was quoted as saying. “But if a snag develops after take-off, during landing or whilst the plane is airborne and cruising, it is serious.”
According to data of the last six years obtained through the right to information (RTI), in 2016 only seven aircraft reported engine snags during flights.
Of the 15 cases this year, seven engines were manufactured by CFM International, an American-European joint venture with General Electric Aviation, while six were made by Pratt & Whitney. The latter has been facing global scrutiny over technical snags in its engines that power the Airbus A320neo aircraft, said the report.
However, the DGCA data show only three Airbus A320neo aircraft developed snags during take-off.
“The engines did cause trouble but most cases were detected during inspection. Hence, only three snags were entered in the data,” the DGCA official said.
Pratt & Whitney assured that the engines did not have serious issues adding that a couple of issues were India-specific such as pollutants in the air clogging the combustor and affecting engine lubrication, a company official told the paper on condition of anonymity.
“We have successfully rectified them and as of today only three A320neo aircraft are grounded,” the official was quoted as saying.
Following an incident of engine failure, the Civil Aviation Ministry takes a call to hand over the investigation of a particular case to either of the two bodies — the DGCA and Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau.
In the official documents submitted by the bureau, the engine fires were referred to as “serious”, but the Civil Aviation Ministry handed the cases to the DGCA.
A senior DGCA official told the paper that the regulator is “seriously looking into all the aspects of air safety”.