Biggest A320neo Customer IndiGo Weighs Rival to Pratt Engine

  • Cooling issues could give boost to GE-Safran joint venture
  • Indian carrier hasn't picked engine for 280 jets on order

India’s largest airline, which faced delivery delays for its first A320neo jets over issues with Pratt & Whitney engines, said it would consider a competing CFM International power plant for a later order.

IndiGo, Airbus Group SE’s biggest customer for the fuel-efficient A320neo, has chosen Pratt for the first 150 of the aircraft, Aditya Ghosh, the carrier’s president, said on a conference call Friday. The airline, which took delivery of its fourth A320neo on Friday, said it has seen fuel savings of 13 percent. The carrier has ordered 430 of the single-aisle jetliner.

"We’re eagerly looking forward to learning from the experience of other airlines that will have the CFM” engine, Ghosh said. "It will be a good opportunity for us to compare the actual operating performance of the two engines before we decide on the engine choice for the remaining 280 aircraft that we have on order."

The A320neo program has been disrupted as Pratt & Whitney grapples with an issue that under certain conditions requires a delay to startup so the engines can reach the right operating temperature. IndiGo, which was supposed to receive the A320neo in December, added the first plane only in March and failed to meet its target of nine for the fiscal year that ended that month.

Two Options

Pratt’s geared turbofan is one of two engine options for the A320neo, competing with the Leap from CFM, a joint venture of General Electric Co. and France’s Safran SA. The CFM engine is scheduled to enter commercial service later this year.

"We are honored to secure Indigo’s order for 150 aircraft with geared turbofan engines," Sara Banda, a Pratt spokeswoman, said by e-mail. "We fully expect to compete for follow-on orders. When the time comes, we will compete aggressively to win that business."

The engines, which currently outfit five A320neos in service, have had better-than-expected fuel burn and dispatch reliability over 99 percent, she said.

Pratt has said it is introducing hardware and software fixes for the “teething issues.”

The problems, which also include erroneous fault messages to pilots, could influence decisions by customers who haven’t made an engine choice, Airbus sales chief John Leahy said Friday. The situation shouldn’t “immediately” affect sales, he said.

Shares of United Technologies Corp., the parent of Pratt & Whitney, closed little changed at $104.37 in New York.

Possible Scratch

Qatar Airways, which was slated to be the A320neo launch customer, has refused to take the aircraft until the Pratt engine issues are resolved. Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker has said he would consider scratching an order for 50 planes and take competing jets made by Boeing Co.

Ghosh said he has a "fair amount of confidence" that most of the Pratt issues would be addressed by the end of this year. IndiGo is slated for delivery of 20 more Neos in the year through March 2017, he said.

"This engine cool-down issue slows the engine start process and impacts our ability to turn the aircraft around quickly, which is an essential part of our low-cost business model," Ghosh said.

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