New Delhi (Sputnik) — Thousands of domestic flyers in India were left stranded Tuesday after low-cost carriers canceled several flights due to an abrupt decision by the aviation regulator to ground airplanes powered by the latest Pratt & Whitney engines — that have gained the notoriety of causing mid-air technical failures. IndiGo, which carries about 40% of domestic flyers, announced the cancellation of at least 47 flights on Tuesday alone.
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"A320neos fitted with PW1100 engines beyond ESN 450 have been grounded with immediate effect. Both IndiGo and Go Air have been told not to refit these engines, which are spare with them in the inventory," DGCA said in a statement.
A320nes fitted with PW1100 engines beyond ESN 450 have been grounded with immediate effect by DGCA. Indigo and Go Air asked not to refit these engines which are spare with them in their inventory. pic.twitter.com/ULCMR85gan— ANI (@ANI) March 12, 2018
The European Aviation Safety Agency had cleared the Airbus A320neos jets to fly if they have a single affected turbine. However, India's Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered airlines grounded even those jets that have only one Pratt engine featuring a seal found to cause vibrations.
DGCA has cited three recent cases where a A320neos, fitted with one affected PW1100 engine, was shut down for this decision. According to the DGCA, on February 25, a Go Air A320neos had shut down after take-off from Leh while two IndiGo jets also reported a similar technical snag on the 5th and 12th of March.
The delivery of A320Neos aircraft to Indian operators started in the first quarter of 2016. Subsequently, operators reportedly started facing a problem with the PW 1100G-JM engine fitted on these aircraft due to wearing of the bearing seal plate and combustion chamber distress. The manufacturer, part of United Technologies Corp. had proposed a fix that would see at least one engine, featuring an older seal, reinstated on planes while it worked on a more permanent solution.
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"The engine manufacturer had confirmed that they would carry out necessary modifications on engine combustion chambers with a life of 4,000 hrs under Indian environment to address the issue of frequent failure of engines," Jayant Sinha, India's Minister of State for Civil Aviation, said on February 6.
In its conversation with all the stakeholders on February 21, the European Aviation Safety Agency had announced that the matter is still under consideration with them.
The manufacturer had asked the Indian regulator to provide relief for three more months (early June) by which all defective components would be replaced but the DGCA, which said it found "no concrete proposal in place at this stage."