Airbus A320neo engines manufactured from 2015-2021 under scrutiny for potential defects.

Key Points:

  • The FAA demands ultrasonic inspections within 30 days on specific Pratt & Whitney's turbofan engines.

  • Over 1,200 engines built for the Airbus A320neo may need inspection due to a "rare condition" in their powdered metal.

  • Airline Go First cites Pratt & Whitney engine failures as a major reason for grounding 50% of its Airbus A320neo fleet.

WASHINGTON D.C. — On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a directive necessitating certain Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan (GTF) engine users to conduct inspections within a month. This move aims to mitigate the risk of a part failure which could compromise the safety of the airplane, as reported by Reuters news agency.

This decision came after Pratt & Whitney's parent company, RTX Corp, raised concerns last month about potential defects. They highlighted a "rare condition" in the powdered metal used in the engines, suggesting that out of over 3,000 engines built for the Airbus A320neo aircraft between 2015 and 2021, around 1,200 might require removal and examination for micro cracks.

Elaborating on the specifics of the required checks, the FAA's recent airworthiness directive detailed that the first- and second-stage high-pressure turbine disks would have to undergo ultrasonic inspection. If these inspections reveal signs of fatigue or wear in the disks, they must be substituted prior to the plane resuming flight. This mandate is in effect immediately and impacts 20 engines registered in the U.S. and an additional 202 engines across the globe.

This directive followed a concerning event in December 2022. A GTF's high-pressure compressor failed, causing an aborted takeoff. Post this incident, an analysis by RTX revealed that the disks in question were prone to failing "much earlier" than previously anticipated.

As a proactive measure, on August 4, Pratt & Whitney directed operators to fast-track inspections of these disks, emphasizing the urgency of the matter.

The ramifications of these engine issues have already been felt by some carriers. For instance, Go First, which recently faced financial challenges and opted for voluntary insolvency proceedings, attributed its crisis to Pratt & Whitney. 

The carrier stated that Pratt & Whitney's International Aero Engines, LLC, had consistently delivered engines that were problematic. This led Go First to ground approximately half of its Airbus A320neo fleet by May 2023. Furthermore, the proportion of aircraft grounded due to these faulty engines escalated from 7% in December 2019 to 31% in December 2020, and a staggering 50% by December 2022. The airline expressed its dissatisfaction, pointing out that Pratt & Whitney's repeated assurances over the years had consistently fallen short.