LONDON — Over the weekend, EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) has issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive (AD) for the A320neo family. This was issued on February 9th and applies for three variants of aircraft in the family. It currently affects A320-271N, A321-271N, and A321-272N variants because of problems with the following engines:
- International Aero Engines Model:
- Engine Serial Number (ESN) P770450 or subsequent.
In the directive, EASA stated the reasoning behind their concerns:
“Several occurrences of engine in-flight shut-down (IFSD) and Rejected Take-Off (RTO) have been reported on certain Airbus A320neo family aeroplanes. While investigation is ongoing to determine the root cause, preliminary findings indicate that the affected engines, which have high pressure compressor aft hub modification embodied from ESN P770450, are more susceptible to IFSD. This condition, if not corrected, could lead to dual engine IFSD. To address this potentially unsafe condition, Airbus issued Alert Operators Transmission (AOT) A71N014-18, providing instructions to de-pair the affected engines and discontinue Extended range Two-engine aeroplanes Operations (ETOPS) for aircraft fitted with affected engines. For the reasons described above, this AD requires implementation of operational restrictions. This AD is considered to be an interim action and further AD action may follow.”
Within this AD, EASA also issued the following operational restrictions on the aircraft variants, with is resulting of the grounding of aircraft whilst the problems are investigated:
- Within 3 flight cycles (FC) from the effective date of this AD, do not operate an airplane having two affected engines installed.
- Within 1 FC from the effective date of this AD, for an airplane having at least one affected engine(s) installed, ETOPS operations are not allowed.
- Inserting a copy of this AD in the ETOPS Configuration, Maintenance and Procedures (CMP) of concerned airplane models and, thereafter, operating that airplane on ETOPS accordingly, is acceptable to comply with paragraph (2) of this AD.
What does this mean for Airbus?
This creates a problem for Airbus and their relationship with Pratt and Whitney. For starters, current aircraft that are already in service will have to be grounded until a solution is created by Pratt and Whitney.
On the more futuristic point of view, in terms of deliveries, this could potentially mean delays on variants of the A320neo family that will be using the engine types affected. Although Airbus will get the brunt of it in the customer view, this ultimately is not their fault. Like with the issue of Rolls Royce with the Dreamliner, it is down to the engine manufacturer to take responsibility.
This problem will ultimately and eventually fall into Pratt and Whitney’s hands as they will be forced to go into the maximum capacity to either fix the current engines or replace them with new ones. On top of this with the deliveries for other customers, it will extend pressure on the company to be the best in manufacturing the engines.
It could also encourage current customers of the A320neo family to change engine providers from Pratt and Whitney to CFM International, who offer the LEAP-1A engines for the aircraft family. At this moment in time, it seems similar to that with Rolls Royce as mentioned with the current problems on their Dreamliner engines.
There are currently 255 of the aircraft family in service (Statistics accurate as of 31st January 2018) which could potentially have this problem of the double-engine shutdowns. This offers higher chances of more dangerous emergencies if the affected aircraft are not grounded.
For Airbus, it is now in their best interest to work with the companies involved to create solutions which will ensure the safety of aircrew as well as passengers flying around the globe every single day. This AD is the correct step towards that as it provides the dialogue needed to make the fixes.