Wednesday, May 29, 2024

From Soaring Success To Turbulent Times: The Pratt & Whitney Engine’s Journey In India & Go First Grounding

By Staff Correspondent

Pratt & Whitney (P&W) has been a prominent figure in the aviation industry for many years, providing power to a diverse range of civilian and military aircraft worldwide. However, this US-based engine manufacturer is now facing significant challenges due to an array of issues, including supply chain disruptions and technical defects.

Over the years, several airlines have encountered issues with P&W engines, resulting in groundings and delays. For instance, Swiss International Airlines has had to ground a third of its Airbus A220 aircraft due to engine issues, while Go First, a low-cost Indian carrier, has blamed P&W for its insolvency. In the meantime, airlines in Africa have been collaborating to address the difficulties caused by engine defects.

Despite these hurdles, P&W engines remain a critical component of the aviation industry, with approximately 1,500 engines and auxiliary power units currently in use in over 700 aircraft and helicopters flown by 135 operators in India alone. Among these, over 180 Airbus A320/A321Neo aircraft operated by IndiGo and Go First, which feature the PW1000G series geared turbofan (GTF) engines, have been lauded for their fuel efficiency, reportedly saving Indian carriers more than $1 billion. However, the engines have also been the subject of controversy since their introduction in 2016, with issues ranging from low-pressure turbine blades to seals, combustors, and other components resulting in inflight shutdowns or premature withdrawals of the engines from aircraft.

Inspite of the successful resolution of many of these issues, problems persist, with Go First reporting that the number of aircraft on the ground due to engine failures increased from 31% in 2020 to over 50% in April 2023. Consequently, several airlines, such as IndiGo, Royal Brunei Airlines, and Qatar Airways, have switched to rival engine maker CFM’s LEAP-1A engine for their Airbus A320/321Neo aircraft, leading to P&W losing substantial business in India.

Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war have also impacted the engine original equipment manufacturer (OEM), with the pandemic affecting fresh orders and production, while the war has limited the supply of key metals used in engine manufacturing, resulting in increased costs.

Even though it faced challenges, P&W remains committed to the Indian market and the aviation industry, with the company investing $40 million in an engineering centre and a capability centre in Bengaluru. It also plans to source production services worth $40 million annually from India within the next decade. Nonetheless, there is currently no OEM-approved facility for off-wing repairs of GTF and LEAP engines in India, which means that these engines must be sent to Europe or the US, even for quick-turn visits.

While the ongoing crisis continues, a source close to P&W has stated that the company’s “commitment to India, our customers, and Indian aviation is strong and has always been.” It’s a testament to P&W’s resilience in the face of challenges, and the industry will continue to watch how the company navigates these challenges with great interest.

Pratt & Whitney did not respond to the Indian Aerospace & Defence’s requests for comment, any responses if received will be added as a rejoinder.

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