The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday, March 12, 2018, grounded 11 airplanes including eight IndiGo and three GoAir flights. These planes had one thing in common– all of these airplanes were running on the faulty Pratt and Whitney PW1100 engine. However, even before the aviation authority grounded these flights for their faulty engines, the engine had been in news for all the wrong reasons. From engine failures to performance snags, the engine had caused several emergency landings not just in India but also in other parts of the world.
Let’s take a look at some of the incidents involving the faulty engine:
– On March 12, 2018, IndiGo A320 Neo aircraft made an emergency landing at the Ahmedabad minutes after takeoff when one of its engines reportedly failed.
– On November 14, 2017, the right wing of a Bengaluru-bound GoAir plane from Delhi reportedly caught fire during takeoff. However, the flames were soon doused and no one was hurt in the incident.
– In yet another incident on September 2, 2017, GoAir flight G8345 from Kochi to Mumbai had to make an emergency landing at Goa airport due to a technical snag. All the passengers were deplaned and subsequently flown to Mumbai the following day.
As mentioned earlier, these incidents are not limited to India. On June 25, 2017, an AirAsia X A330 from Perth to Kuala Lumpur returned to Perth airport following an engine failure.
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What is the issue with these airplanes?
The grounded airplanes are manufactured by European aircraft manufacturer Airbus and powered by American aerospace manufacturer Pratt and Whitney’s PW1100 engines. These planes have faced frequent engines failures in recent months. An internal inquiry by Pratt & Whitney revealed issues with the knife edge seal in the High-Pressure Compressor (HPC) aft hub of the engine. However, according to the company, the issue affected ‘a limited subpopulation of engines’ i.e. PW1100 geared turbofan engines.
How many such airplanes are flying across the globe?
As of now, of the 113 Airbus 320neo aircrafts operating worldwide with various airliners, 10 percent aircrafts have faults in both the engines, which means at least one of the engines need to be changed for the aircraft to fly. While 30 percent of the Airbus 320neo aircrafts with these engines operating worldwide have at least one engine affected.
As far as India is concerned, IndiGo has nearly 154 aircrafts most of which are Airbus 320neo aircrafts. Wadia group’s GoAir too has a number of Airbus 320neo in its troop.
Are these airplanes risky to fly? Should I be worried?
Yes, these planes are indeed risky to fly and pose a risk to both the passengers and the cabin crew on board the aircraft. The number of incidents of engine failures that have occurred across the globe is a proof of the risk that these aircraft possess.
What was DGCA doing so far?
Despite the flaw being in public knowledge for months, DGCA did nothing. In fact, according to a PTI report dated February 12, 2018, the aviation authority said that there was no plan of grounding PW1100 engine-powered Airbus 320neo crew in the country. However, the authority sprung into action following a mid-air engine failure of an IndiGo A320neo aircraft from Ahmedabad to Lucknow.