Pilots revving too hard may be cause of mid-air shutdown: DGCA tells IndiGo

Bloomberg November 29 | Updated on November 29, 2019 Published on November 29, 2019

IndiGo and GoAir use the same type of engine made by Pratt & Whitney (file photo)   -  V_V_Krishnan

‘Rival GoAir uses an alt-climb approach that applies less thrust’

IndiGo and GoAir use the same type of engine made by Pratt & Whitney that’s susceptible to mid-flight shutdowns. Yet, IndiGo, one of Airbus SE’s biggest customers, is the only one to encounter turbine failures this year, drawing heavy scrutiny from the aviation regulator.

The reason could be linked to how the budget airline flies. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) told IndiGo’s operator, InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, that its practice of revving A320neo jets at full thrust right after take-off could wear down the engines, people familiar with the matter said. By contrast, GoAir uses a so-called alt-climb approach that applies less thrust, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing a private matter.

Climbing at full thrust can help planes burn less fuel, two of the people said. IndiGo has suffered 13 engine shutdowns related to low-pressure turbines during climbs this year, according to one of the people who was directly involved in an investigation where the DGCA ran a comparative analysis on how both airlines operate.

Costly issue

The issue has been costly. The DGCA this week said every time a new plane joins IndiGo’s fleet, it must ground one A320neo that hasn’t had its engines modified. That essentially prevents Asia’s biggest budget airline by market value from adding new flights until the issue is fixed. IndiGo has 730 of the latest model on order, making it the world’s top A320neo customer and wants to expand its network beyond cities such as Istanbul to destinations including London.

An IndiGo spokeswoman said the matter is strictly between the airline and the authorities concerned. “The US Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t established any connection between the climb procedure and engine problems,” she wrote in a text message, adding that the safety of passengers, crew and aircraft remains the utmost priority.

An Airbus spokesman said the planes are designed to handle full thrust, but it is established best practice for pilots to lower the thrust while climbing to reduce stress on the engine.

Published on November 29, 2019
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