CORRECTED-Air safety watchdog extends deadline for IndiGo to replace Pratt & Whitney engines

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s aviation regulator has given IndiGo more time to replace the Pratt & Whitney engines on its fleet of Airbus A320neo planes which have been linked to in-flight engine shutdowns, a statement released by the watchdog said on Monday. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in November said IndiGo, the country’s largest airline, must replace the engines by January 31, after four incidents of in-flight engine shutdowns within a week caused “serious concern”. The DGCA has now given IndiGo until May 31, saying that while the regulator was obliged to set up a tight deadline it was also intended to “spur frenetic action on the part of all stakeholders”. “The airline and the aircraft and the engine manufacturer have made significant efforts towards completion of the task,” it said in the statement, adding that they had submitted a detailed plan to the regulator for procuring the 135 replacement engines still required. IndiGo, owned by InterGlobe Aviation (INGL.NS) and the biggest customer of Airbus’ (AIR.PA) A320neo jets with more than 400 planes on order, did not respond to a request for comment. Airbus and Pratt & Whitney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. United Technologies’ (UTX.N) current Pratt & Whitney engine models entered in service in 2016, but issues with the units have forced IndiGo to ground planes several times. IndiGo has already replaced at least one Pratt & Whitney engine on each affected plane with a modified one, the DGCA said. IndiGo, Pratt & Whitney and Airbus have also submitted a plan to ensure that the second engine on each plane is replaced with a modified one by June 2020, but the DGCA has insisted on the May deadline. That is ahead of the Dec 31 deadline set by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for airlines to complete the replacement of engines linked to the shutdowns. “The DGCA believes that the unmodified engines do contain an unsafe condition, which is prone to undesirable outcomes and therefore, need to be dispensed with,” it said, adding that no aircraft fitted with the unmodified engines will be allowed to fly after May. The watchdog has also allowed IndiGo to add new planes to its fleet, reversing an earlier directive where the airline was asked to first replace engines on existing aircraft before adding new ones. (The story corrects para 8 to clarify that IndiGo has already replaced at least one engine on each affected plane)

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