The adage that bad news always comes on a Friday held true again in commercial aviation industry this week.
Airbus on Friday warned certain airlines of a more concerning problem related to the new Pratt & Whitney geared-turbo-fan (GTF) engines powering both the Airbus A320neo and A321neo aircraft. The neo versions of this aircraft have provided a significant amount of customer orders.
The issue prompted Airbus to warn affected airlines and to inform the European Safety Agency of the issue. That agency indicated that it was aware of certain occurrences of in-flight events and has now issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive flight restriction regarding the aircraft.
According to Airbus, there are currently 113 Pratt & Whitney-powered A320neo aircraft now operational among 18 customers. Pratt indicated on Friday that the latest performance issue is limited to a specific subpopulation, likely amounting to 40 engines. These engines will likely need to be immediately repaired or replaced. According to one published report, the problem relates to the knife edge seal in the High-Pressure Compressor (HPC) aft hub on the PW1100G-JM engine.
The current development has two meaningful industry supply chain disruption implications.
For Pratt, it represents yet another setback in operational performance of the new GTF engine. The issue will require more engineering design attention and will likely impact the need for more spare engines to keep existing customer aircraft operationally in-service.
For Airbus, this latest development casts added challenges in the ability to ramp-up 2018 production levels of the in-demand A321 neo model. In the most previous two quarters, finished neo powered aircraft had to be staged on factory runways awaiting delivery of new GTF engines. A previous catch-up production plan will likely have to be revisited or revised.
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