Faulty Engines Cast Shadow On India’s Booming Aviation Market

New Delhi: On Saturday, a GoAir flight from Bengaluru to Pune — with 169 passengers aboard — suffered from a mid-air engine failure and was forced to return back for emergency landing.

This is hardly the first such case in India.

The aviation sector in India is growing rapidly. The number of passenger planes in India — the fastest growing market — is expected to nearly double from 600 to 1,100 in ten years. But the engine driving this growth has a major issue.

A large part of India’s new aircraft orders (from Boeing and Airbus) constitute the narrow-body, twin-engine, single-aisle aircraft preferred by India’s low-cost airlines. Last year India ordered more such planes than China.

This is also a segment that is driving aerospace sector giant Airbus’s growth. Its A320 neos dominate the Indian market, serving Indigo and GoAir, among others. More than half of A320 neos worldwide run on engines provided by a single company – Pratt & Whitney (P&W).

But, P&W is struggling to cope with the rapid increase in orders. In March this year, Indigo and GoAir had to cancel 65 flights after DGCA, the aviation regulator, ordered to stop flying planes with P&W engines. Such measures were taken in Europe too. Pratt & Whitney said the issue, which it blamed on a component failure, has been fixed.

But Pratt & Whitney engines now have a new problem, that of, excessive vibration. The company has yet to identify the cause, and is assessing if it could be due to a prior design issue.

In the Bangalore-Pune GoAir flight, the pilot was first warned of the engine vibration, then its oil detection chip alarm went off (suggesting impending engine failure), and eventually an inflight shutdown (IFSD) of the engine. P&W, however, has rejected it is an IFSD.

As an effect, the Airbus stock has fallen by more than 2.5 per cent since the latest engine trouble. (ToI)

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