India's civil aviation regulator DGCA has asked IndiGo to replace both the engines of its entire A320neo fleet of 97 aircraft by Jan 31 "at all costs" or face grounding.
The regulator has asked the airline to consider postponing its induction plan and treat the engine replacement matter as a top priority.
"You may like to stagger or defer your future induction plan and procure a sufficient number of modified engines to keep the existing fleet in operation," the regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation said in a statement.
The issue is regarding low-pressure turbines which results in the breakage of LPT blades, engine vibration and then the aircraft has to return back to the ground.
The move comes after four incidents of air "turn back" or "inflight shutdown" over the last week in the Pratt & Whitney-run A320neos.
"This situation cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely. Therefore, after considerable deliberations, it has been decided that all aircraft in your fleet numbering 97 as on date, need to be placed with modified LPT for both the engines. In case, it is not done, such aircraft shall not be allowed to fly with unmodified engines," the regulator said in its order.
On Oct 28, the regulator has already asked the airline to replace one of the two engines of 16 A320neo aircraft to fix the issues in the low-pressure turbine. On Friday, the regulator extended this order to seven more neo planes.
India's largest airline has been given the deadline of Nov 19 to get either of the two engines changed for a total of 23 A320neo aircraft.
“In continuation of our earlier communication laying down the placement of at least one LPT modified engine on each of the 16 Aircraft (the both engines of which have done more than 2900 FH) in next 15 days, i.e. by November 12, 2019, it has been noted that 7 more aircraft fall in the similar category and therefore, this be extended to those aircraft also and to accomplish this, an additional 7 days are allowed. So, the completion of this task is to be achieved latest by Nov 19," DGCA said in its statement.
The regulator has reiterated that it would not allow these 23 aircraft to operate commercial flights if the airline does not adhere to the deadline.
"Kindly note that after that none of these 23 aircraft, which does not have at least one LPT modified engine on its wings, shall be allowed for commercial operation and their schedule will suitably be curtailed till this is accomplished," the regulator warned.
"You will appreciate that four successive events have not happened ever before and therefore, call for urgent and effective action. We regret the inconvenience but we need desperate measures to put things in order," the regulator further said in its statement.
About 40 percent of the domestic seat capacity of India is powered by Pratt & Whitney neo engines.
Pratt & Whitney has been in the spotlight in the Indian aviation space since 2016 when India's largest airline IndiGo started facing delivery delays in A320neo aircraft amid issues related to cooling down and a start-up time of the engine, reliability, combustion chamber lining, oil seal and fan blades.
In fact, last year India's aviation regulator DGCA grounded as many as 14 Airbus A320neos following warning of a potential in-flight shutdown in a sub-category of its Pratt & Whitney engines.
Pratt & Whitney declined to comment. The article will be updated when IndiGo responds to a request for comment.
First Published: IST