India Steps Up Scrutiny of Pratt's Balky New Engines on Airbus Jets

Updated on
  • Geared turbofan glitches ‘not solved,’ aviation minister says
  • Powerplant for Airbus A320neo competes with GE-Safran’s Leap

An Airbus A320neo aircraft in Toulouse, France, on Sept. 25, 2014.

Photographer: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg

Regulators in India are stepping up scrutiny of Pratt & Whitney’s new jet engines as the U.S. manufacturer tries to overcome glitches that have grounded some Airbus SE planes.

The geared turbofan engines are now being inspected after as few as 350 hours of operation, down from initial plans for every 1,000 hours, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said in an interview in New Delhi. Power plants that don’t meet all requirements will be pulled from service, and the government denied Pratt’s request to allow some failed engines to continue to be used for short intervals, he said.

Pratt, a unit of United Technologies Corp., is rushing to address the flaws after spending $10 billion developing the geared turbofan for narrow-body planes such as Airbus’ A320neo. The engine has had a rocky introduction amid delivery delays and technical issues, including some components that have not been as durable as expected. The company is ramping up production rates and introducing fixes for the faults.

“So far, we feel that it is not solved,” Raju said. “The inspections are more rigid now.”

For more on how Pratt’s problems are affecting engine sales, click here

All the A320neo planes powered by Pratt & Whitney are certified for safe operations, the turbine maker said. While Raju referred to altitude restrictions on the engines, Pratt said it’s advising airlines that there is no longer any need to adjust the flight profiles.

“The durability of the engine’s entry-into-service configuration is being improved,” it said in an emailed statement. “We are working hand-in-hand with operators on a daily basis to address their in-service fleet issues.”

Grounded Jets

IndiGo, India’s largest airline, and Go Airlines India have a combined total of about 30 A320neos in their fleet, making the country the largest customer of the new aircraft. But about a third of them have been grounded as Pratt has failed to provide enough spare engines that meet regulatory requirements.

IndiGo pulled as many as nine A320neos from service on some days and it may be a year or so before Pratt implements all necessary design changes, the airline’s president, Aditya Ghosh, said last month. The carrier, operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., has already received some compensation from the engine maker as it struggles to fix the snags.

Pratt’s geared turbofan competes to power the A320neo family with the Leap, a new engine from CFM International Inc., a joint venture of General Electric Co. and France’s Safran SA. Vistara, the Indian affiliate of Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Air India Ltd. flies Safran SA with Leap engines.

— With assistance by Rick Clough

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