The Downfall of Pratt & Whitney and the Rise of Ge: Indigo’s Troublesome A320


Indigo Airlines, the biggest low-cost carrier (LCC) of India is headquartered in Gurgaon, New Delhi. The airlines are now planning to replace its fleet of Airbus A320-neo aircraft with engines provided by GE after experiencing technical issues with the engines of Pratt & Whitney.

Currently, the low-cost carrier has ambitious plans to expand operations in the regional aviation market, as well as low-cost long haul international flights. Indigo Airlines, which currently holds the largest market share in the domestic aviation sector, has placed orders for a total of 430 NEO (new engine option) aircraft to meet the targeted expectations. The new aircraft shall help in covering longer flight distances, as well as help in economic savings on fuel costs, by a margin of 15%. The total passenger capacity is 189.

The low-cost carrier, Indigo (operating under the umbrella of Interglobe Aviation) is one of the largest customers of Airbus. Indigo is also the first airline in India and Asia to operate the Airbus A320-neo aircraft. Presently, the low-cost carrier suffers from the loss of seven narrow-body neo-aircraft. The aircraft has not been able to remain operational, owing to the technical issues faced by Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100 geared turbofan engines. Indigo airlines have a contractual agreement with Pratt & Whitney for providing the airlines with the full replacement, in situations related to engine problems. Slower deliveries from Pratt & Whitney shall further hamper the efforts of Indigo airlines to commence operations of their grounded flights. Currently, Indigo operates a fleet of 137, Airbus A320, including 22, Airbus A320-NEO aircraft, and has further placed orders for a total of 430 – A320-NEO aircraft. Owing to engine failures, the airline has canceled several flights. Furthermore, the problems caused by engine failures have resulted in a severe delay in the delivery of new aircraft, by Airbus, to its customers.

Indigo Airlines has continued to receive the necessary operations and technical support, including the provision of spare engines to help mitigate the operational impact. Pratt & Whitney have further confirmed to take one year to build new engines, according to the design changes.

The aircraft manufacturer company, Airbus has provided two engine options with the Airbus A320-neo aircraft, which include GE engines (GE (CGM) LEAP 1-A) or the Pratt & Whitney engines (Pratt & Whitney Pure Power 1100G). Problems faced by the Pratt & Whitney engines have led to many airline companies to modify their purchase orders. Many of the early airlines adopting the Pratt & Whitney engines, such as Indigo, Go Air, and Lufthansa has let the engines spool up and run for two-three minutes longer, before conducting airline operations.

Furthermore, the PW1100G engines are witnessing a phenomenon known as rotor bowing. This phenomenon occurs when the temperature differences within the engine lead to misalignment of certain parts (shaft, rotor blades) within the engine. The phenomenon of rotor bowing leads to degradation in the efficiency of the engines, engine life, the life of the rotor blades, and the engine compressor. As a result of this phenomenon, Indigo Airlines has issued altitude restrictions of 30,000 for the Airbus A320-neo air crafts. Increasing altitude leads to the shutting down of the engine’s bleed air system (which helps to start the engine and in-cabin pressurization). This, in turn, affects the anti-icing system installed on the aircraft. Making use of GE engines is expected to help the airline carrier to achieve fuel efficiency, reliability, as well as outstanding services in its operations.

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