The government has stepped up scrutiny of engines on Airbus SE’s A320neo jets, forcing the country’s biggest airline, IndiGo, to have to replace more than previously estimated, a move that could further delay the budget carrier’s expansion plans.
A “more intense boroscopic examination” of engines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney has identified more engines at risk of shutting down in midair, Arun Kumar, the head of India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation, told Bloomberg News on Sunday. Out of roughly 200 engines in use, IndiGo will now have to replace at least 130. India’s Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, had earlier put the figure at 110.
Kumar said the DGCA would decide in mid-January whether to grant IndiGo more time — beyond the current January 31 deadline — before it started ordering some planes be grounded. The affected planes have continued to fly while the work is being done, since they have two engines.
The increased scrutiny will add further pressure on IndiGo, which has been prohibited from adding new routes or flights until it replaces all faulty engines. That could also add to pressure on Pratt, a unit of United Technologies, to direct more engines to IndiGo, the largest customer for Airbus’ best-selling A320neo series, at a time when demand for Airbus jets has soared.
A rival model made by Boeing has been grounded since March following two crashes that killed hundreds of people. “The not-so-good news is that it will take more time than envisaged owing to logistical challenges,” Kumar said. “About exact extension of time, we will be able to make a proper assessment sometime in the middle of January after taking a holistic view.” He added IndiGo has fully adopted a revised take-off method that doesn’t apply full thrust on the engines, a practice the regulator had linked to repeated in-flight turbine failures.
IndiGo didn’t respond to a request for comment. “We continue to work closely with the DGCA as part of our ongoing engagement, to ensure that we keep to schedules,” Ashmita Sethi, Pratt’s newly appointed head for India, said in a text message. Airbus said it was “working closely with Pratt & Whitney and the DGCA to maintain the schedule for engine deliveries.”
IndiGo, operated by InterGlobe Aviation, is the biggest budget carrier in Asia by market value, and has been adding jets at a breakneck pace of more than one a week.