More than 50 planes of IndiGo and Go First are on the ground due to Pratt & Whitney engine woes amid persisting supply chain headwinds, forcing airlines to explore wet leasing of aircraft and other options to minimise disruptions, according to officials. The country's largest airline IndiGo is looking at various options, including slowing down redeliveries through lease extensions, exploring the re-induction of aircraft into the fleet, and evaluating the wet lease options within the regulatory guidelines.
While the global supply chain issues continue, especially in the wake of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Pratt & Whitney (P&W) engine problems have been there for quite sometime. Few months back, senior civil aviation ministry officials also had discussions with the engine maker on ways to improve the supply situation. A senior government official told PTI that there are at least 25 aircraft each of IndiGo and Go First that are on the ground due to P&W engine problems, and the engine maker is not able to ensure timely deliveries on account of supply chain disruptions. However, according to flight tracking website flightradar24.com, as many as 39 aircraft of IndiGo, comprising 28 A320 neo and 11 A321 were on ground as on February 26.
Against the backdrop of continuing engine woes, a senior official at one of the budget carriers on the condition of anonymity told PTI that there is also a thought of changing the engine supplier for its next order to overcome the persistent problems with P&W engines.
When asked for comments about the grounding of at least 50 planes of the two carriers and steps taken to address the issues, a P&W spokesperson said it expects the "pressures to begin to ease later this year" but did not mention about the number of aircraft that have been impacted. "Like many in the industry, we are experiencing global supply chain challenges, which are limiting the availability of structural castings and other parts and we are working mitigation strategies with our supply base and expanding MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) network capacity.
"At the same time, we're continuing upgrades to extend engine time on wing," the spokesperson said. IndiGo has more than 300 planes in its fleet and has two engine suppliers -- P&W and CFM -- while Go First has around 61 aircraft and P&W is its lone engine supplier. An IndiGo spokesperson said the airline is actively engaged with its Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) partners to work on mitigation measures that should ensure the continuity of network and operations.
"We continue to receive new aircraft and also a supply of refreshed engines, albeit slower than what are required. Some of the other measures being evaluated include slowing down redeliveries through lease extensions, exploring the reinduction of aircraft into the fleet, and evaluating the wet lease options within the regulatory guidelines," the spokesperson said. In an interview with PTI earlier this month, IndiGo CEO Pieter Elbers said it is basically a stable situation with respect to AOG (Aircraft On Ground).
"We have stabilised the supply chain situation and we are talking with suppliers to have a good support in dealing with it. We have extended the leases, we have the wet lease. "For the current fiscal year ending March, we have anticipated 17 per cent growth, probably we will end up at the high range of that number. That is a number speaking about the size and ambition of IndiGo," he had said. Queries sent to Go First remained unanswered. A source at the no-frills carrier said that 25 aircraft are on the ground out of the current fleet strength of 61. The airline expects deliveries of three planes as well as 17 P&W engines in March, the source added. Earlier this month, Tata Group-owned Air India placed an order for 470 planes with Airbus and Boeing. However, P&W has not been chosen to supply engines for any of these aircraft and the engines are to be supplied by GE Aerospace, CFM and Rolls Royce.
The spokesperson for IndiGo, which operates around 1,800 flights daily, said that while the supply chain issues represent a constraint, they have not halted its growth. "We are bullish on the market opportunities and will continue to add flights in existing and new geographies in future". Recently, aviation consultancy CAPA said that in recent months, there have been numerous cases of aircraft deliveries being delayed where the airframe was ready but engines were not available due to supply chain issues. "The incidence of such cases is expected to ease by the end of FY2024," it said in a report. India is the fastest growing as well as the third largest civil aviation market in the world, and the domestic air traffic is witnessing a robust recovery. "India is an important market for us, and we continue to pursue opportunities here," the P&W spokesperson said.