The A320neo operations of IndiGo and GoAir may start running smoothly very soon as Pratt & Whitney plans to upgrade all of its engines in the A320neo fleet of Indian carriers by the first part of 2019, the company told CNBC-TV18.
"We continue to work closely with our A320neo operators in India to support their operations while upgrading the fleet to the latest configuration. More than 95 percent of the fleet in India have completed the retrofit; we expect 100 percent completion in the first part of 2019," the Connecticut-based company said in an e-mailed response to a set of queries.
The incorporation of hardware and software upgrades are providing significant improvements in engine reliability and time on wing, the engine maker said.
The company 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 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.
This year, the company along with other stakeholders found themselves in a tense situation again when the civil aviation ministry called for a review meeting of A320neos following a series of engine glitches resulting in in-flight shutdown or engine failure in some cases.
The most recent incident took place on January 3, where IndiGo flight 6E 923, operating on Chennai-Kolkata route, returned to Chennai shortly after the take-off due to a technical glitch. While the airline maintained that there was no engine shutdown, sources said that the aircraft witnessed unusual vibration and a loud noise.
"We are aware of the recent incident and are in close contact with the customer. Based on initial analysis and review, the incident was related to a seal. Pratt & Whitney, in coordination with its customers in India, has put in place proactive monitoring and inspection plans," the company further said in the e-mailed communication, adding that there was no issue in the combustion chamber.
While there were also reports of as many as seven A320neos being grounded due to engine glitch, P&W denied any fault of engine in these groundings and said that it has provided additional spare engines to airlines and will continue to ramp up their production as well. Even, the civil aviation ministry had said on Tuesday that both IndiGo and GoAir have spare engines to the tune of 4 and 3 units, respectively, for A320neo planes.
"Pratt & Whitney will continue to work closely with Airbus and our joint customers to make sure they have engines to support aircraft deliveries and operational commitments," the company said.
Pratt & Whitney is an important player in the Indian aviation space as nearly 40 percent of the country's order book, comprising of more than 350 planes, are P&W PW1100G-JM-powered A320neo aircraft ordered by IndiGo and GoAir. Of these, nearly 100 planes have been delivered to India till date.
The neo fleet of planes from Airbus and the MAX family of Boeing have become popular among airlines recently due to the prime attraction of fuel savings, as much as 14-15 percent.
In India, the P&W engines have powered over 650,000 flight hours and saved 32 million gallons of fuel and avoided 344,000 tons of carbon emission to date, the engine maker claimed.While the engine maker maintains that there are no safety concerns with its engines, DGCA's upcoming safety directives are likely to roll out a set of stringent parameters to further strengthen the safety and reliability of A320neo engines in India.