Key Points

  • The FAA and EASA have issued near-term mandatory inspection orders for specific Pratt & Whitney PW1100G turbofan engines, based on Pratt’s own service bulletin.

  • Pratt has identified 201 engines with high pressure turbine (HPT) disks suspected of being affected by potentially contaminated metal powder, with several engines having multiple flagged disks.

  • Over 900 Pratt-powered Airbus A320neo-family aircraft could potentially be affected, with carriers like India's IndiGo, Air China, and Lufthansa among those operating large numbers of these planes.

RTX Under Scrutiny as Contaminated Powder Metal Found in Pratt's Suspect Engines

EAST HARTFORD —On August 22, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) initiated a mandatory airworthiness directive to inspect specific Pratt & Whitney PW1100G turbofans. This followed Pratt's August 4 special instruction bulletin, which was also adopted by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Both agencies have directed operators to complete these off-wing inspections—Pratt by September 15 and the FAA and EASA by September 28.

The inspections were prompted by Pratt's identification of 201 engines suspected of having faulty high-pressure turbine (HPT) disks. These HPT disks are manufactured using potentially contaminated powder metal supplied by HMI Metal Powders, a unit of RTX, formerly Raytheon Technologies. Affected engines, made from late 2015 to early 2021, contain these suspect disks, making them more susceptible to cracking.

The serial numbers of the targeted engines include 55 that are currently off-wing, as well as several with multiple flagged disks. An additional 80 disks, not tied to specific engines, are believed to be spare parts or previously removed components. The FAA indicated that the first batch of engines slated for immediate inspections includes 20 situated in U.S.-registered aircraft.

According to an Aviation Week study, over 900 Pratt-powered Airbus A320neo-family planes were produced within the timeframe corresponding to the delivery of these suspect engines. Indian carrier IndiGo leads the pack with 135 of these aircraft, while Air China, Go First, Lufthansa, Spirit Airlines, and Volaris each operate at least 40.

The issue stems from HPT disks that Pratt records show are at risk. These are part of a larger pool of nearly 2,100 disks produced during a period when contamination of powder metal was suspected. Another subset involving approximately 1,000 engines is expected to require inspection within the next year, according to RTX's updated recommendations last July.

Pratt's directive does not specify which operators are affected, nor does it outline any engine-specific in-service time metrics used to identify the initial set of disks for inspection. However, the drive for more immediate checks was triggered by a December 2022 incident unrelated to the HPT disks, causing Pratt to reevaluate its risk analysis process. This concluded that inspections of the most-used PW1100G HPT disks could not be postponed until scheduled overhauls.

Currently, the only in-service aircraft affected are those powered by PW1100G engines in A320neo variants. Pratt is in the process of examining records for the PW1500G and PW1900G engine types to ascertain the impact on A220 and Embraer E2 fleets.