European aircraft maker Airbus announced last Friday that it had found an issue with the Pratt & Whitney (P&W) engines the company installs on its top-selling A320neo and A321neo single-aisle passenger jets. Over the weekend the company said it would stop accepting more PW1100G geared turbofan (GTF) engines from P&W, a division of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX).
According to a report in Aviation Week, Airbus said that about one-third of the two models’ in-service fleet of 113 planes are affected by the issue that involves a seal in one of the engine’s high-pressure compressors. Of the affected aircraft, 11 are believed to have the issue in both engines and 21 are believed to have the issue on one of the plane’s two engines. Pratt & Whitney has identified by serial number which engines may be affected and has communicated that to its customers.
This is not good news for Pratt & Whitney, according to Aviation Week:
The problem could become much bigger if the engine supplier cannot find a quick fix, as the delivery schedule of future A320neo aircraft will likely be seriously affected in that case.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued an emergency airworthiness directive last Friday that warns of a potential “dual engine” in-flight shutdown on A320neo-family aircraft powered by the GTF engines. Aviation Week noted that industry sources have reported four incidents so far of in-flight shutdown but that the actual number could be higher. India’s low-cost Indigo Airlines has grounded three of its A320neos following release of the directive.
In addition to the GTF engine, the A320neo family offers the option of a CFM Leap-1A engine made by a joint venture between France’s Safran and General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE). A similar GTF engine is also used on Bombardier’s CS100 and Embraer’s E2 family, but these variants are not affected by this issue.
Reliability and durability issues with the GTF engine have been blamed for the delays in getting the A320neo family and CS100 into service.