Wednesday, March 14, 2018

31 Pratt-powered A-320 Neos still flying in India

New Delhi: With 14 Airbus A-320 new engine option (Neo) aircraft with faulty Pratt & Whitney (PW) engines grounded, IndiGo and GoAir now have 31 Neos with an earlier series of PW flying in their fleets. However, these 31 planes fly only over land for domestic flights and are not used for over sea flights to the Gulf and Southeast Asia (where IndiGo flies) and to Port Blair (where both the budget airlines go). The reason: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had last year asked the two airlines no to fly these planes over sea as high salinity level in the air was believed to be causing troubles to the earlier series of Pratt engines.
“Earlier the PW engines on A-320 Neos were facing a snag in their combustion chambers. At that time last year, we had advised IndiGo and Go to keep the Neos away from sea as high salinity was felt to be one of the factors leading causing this trouble. This is being followed by them and the 31 PW-powered Neos which are now flying with the two airlines are perfectly safe. They just stay away from sea,” said a senior official.
Secondly, aviation regulators have to give something known as ETOPS (extended-range twin-engine operational performance standards) to twin engine aircraft to operate flights on routes where the nearest suitable airport to make emergency landing for any reason is more than an 60 minutes away. This clearance is required for overseas flights.
Last month while issuing an emergency airworthiness airworthiness directive warning of a potential “dual engine” inflight shutdown on A-320 Neo-family aircraft powered by PW PW1100G geared turbofan (GTF) engines, European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had withdrawn the ETOPS for aircraft with this specific type of engines.
“Once EASA withdrew ETOPS, the planes with engines flagged off by them were not allowed to fly on routes where the nearest airport for an emergency landing was over an hour ago like a over sea flight. The reason: In case of an engine failure, the other engine can safely land a plane. But with EASA waning of dual engine shutdown, ETOPS did not remain an option. However, we have been doing this since last year itself when the combustion chamber trouble with PW engines on A-320 Neos started happening,” said the official.
Last summer, IndiGo had asked its pilots not to fly the Neos over 30,000 feet instead of the usual flying altitude of 36,000 feet to avoid snags. However, this restriction has been removed but the DGCA’s no-over-sea restriction for Neos remains.
GoAir and IndiGo have been following this by not flying their PW-powered Neos over sea. IndiGo and GoAir have 32 and 13 A-320 Neos, respectively. Interestingly while DGCA says 11 Neos of IndiGo are grounded and three of GoAir, IndiGo says only nine of its planes have been grounded.
14/03/18 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India