Indian low-fare carrier IndiGo, one of Airbus’s biggest A320 family customers and the first A320neo operator in India and Asia, now has at least seven neos sitting idle following technical hitches with the airplanes’ Pratt & Whitney PW1100 geared turbofan engines. Since IndiGo’s contract includes replacement of the full engine, slow deliveries from Pratt & Whitney continue to hamper its efforts to place the airplanes into service while the engine maker concentrates on deliveries for newly parked neos in queue for the powerplants at Airbus’s plant in Toulouse.
IndiGo’s present fleet of 137 Airbus A320 family includes 22 neos. To date, the airline has ordered 530 aircraft, including 430 A320neos. Deliveries have stalled from the original plan of four neos a month to three neos in three months.
Last week two more aircraft joined the list of AOGs (aircraft on ground), even while Pratt delivered two engines for IndiGo neos. While the cost conscious carrier has had to cancel flights due the problem, its financial strength and influence should help its negotiating position with the OEMs, minimizing its losses.
Meanwhile, Pratt & Whitney insists it has made progress in resolving the engine problems, and that it continues to “actively work” and support its customers’ daily operations in India. “Pratt & Whitney’s on-wing carbon air-seal improvement package received certification in April and has been deployed to our customers,” it said in a statement. “These changes are designed to improve the carbon seal’s durability for PW1100G-JM engines on the A320neo fleet.”
A main gearbox failure also required premature removals, according to a February report from India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation. It added that about 25 percent of the degradation of the engines’ combustor liners resulted from operation in coastal environments.
Last year, when IndiGo took its first neo delivery, the airline’s president, Aditya Ghosh, expressed enthusiasm about the engines’ promise of fuel burn savings. “The fuel efficient aircraft will be part of a new phase of our growth and will enable us to offer more regional and international destinations at the best price,” he said in an Airbus statement.
In fact, one engineer told AIN that Indian carriers GoAir and IndiGo had expected higher fuel burn than they generated in actual practice. “This depends on the geographical area the plane is flying in,” he said. “For instance flights in Europe get higher burn than flights in Asia.”