"We are addressing the queries and working with partners to resolve the issues," says Palash Roy Chowdhury, managing director (India) for Pratt & Whitney (P&W) dismissing the criticism around its controversial PW1100G engine that's powering some Airbus A320neo aircraft of IndiGo and GoAir.
There are billions of dollars at stake for P&W, the US-based aerospace engine maker, after its engine - PW1100G - based on geared turbofan (GTF) technology started developing snags one after the other. "Indian carriers have been early adopters of this technology," says Chowdhury.
A series of incidents over the past two months has raised doubts on the safety of P&W engines. According to reports, there are six incidents involving A320neos using P&W engines which have developed glitches, including a fire on the tail of a GoAir flight. Following which, the aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) ordered boroscopic inspection of 21 Airbus A320neos (IndiGo's 16 and GoAir's 5).
The boroscopic inspection is expected to be completed in four days (by March 19). Sources say that the problems have cropped up due to harsh environment conditions in the country.
P&W's Chowdhury says that the typical lifecycle of such a programme (read: GFT technology) is about 30 years, and the technology has just finished its first year. "It's a new technology. The engine was commercially launched January last year with Lufthansa. The GTF technology is being delivered to 13 customers, and powering over 100 engines currently. There's a continuous improvement process for our programmes," he adds.
Currently, there are two major concerns with the engine - distress in a carbon-air seal for No. 3 bearing and degradation of combustion chambers. "The bearing problem will be addressed in a few weeks whereas the combustion chambers issue will be fixed in the next round of upgrade by September this year. As we implement solutions, the problems will go away," says Chowdhury.
In the meantime, P&W has arranged for spare engines in order to avoid inconvenience to its customers. Nearly half of the fleet equipped with PW1100G engines are operating in India at the moment.
Developed over the past 10 years with a total cost of $10 billion, the GTF engine was supposed to benefit airlines enormously. The engine has lower noise footprint (75 per cent less), consumes 16 per cent less fuel and reduces regulated emissions by 50 per cent. The parts of the engine is manufactured across different parts of the world and assembled in three locations - Connecticut, Florida and Germany. P&W has about 8,000 pending orders for engines based on GTF technology.
In the aviation history, engine-related snags are rare. However, airlines in India have faced engineering and equipment-related issues in the past. Boieng 787 Dreamliner, flown by Air India, had encountered 44 major engineering faults between 2012 and 2014, as per DGCA reports. Recently, Vijay Mallya, the head of now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines has blamed P&W's group firm IAE for supplying defective engines which led to the fall of the airline.