Continuing reliability issues that have plagued the Pratt & Whitney GTF geared turbofan engines are now impacting the A220 fleet at Swiss, which has been grounded for inspections. A third recent incident with the PW1524 engines powering the aircraft has led to a decision by Swiss to ground its 29 aircraft fleet until all of the engines can be examined, with those that are problem free returning to service.
The earlier incidents included a mechanical failure on July 25 near Perrigny sur-Armancon and Cry, France in which pieces of the engine fell in unpopulated areas, with the flight returning to Paris. On September 16, an identical incident occurred with the aircraft returning to Geneva, and reports today indicate another incident, with flight LX359 diverted to Paris.
A statement from Swissair stated that “on-going technical inspections of several aircraft will restrict our flight operations. As a result, many flights will be cancelled.” Passengers have been urged to check for flight cancellations on line.
The problems for the PW1524G follow a litany of problems experience on the larger PW1100G series used on the Airbus A320neo, which has been plagued with continuing engine problems over the past two years since introduction into service.
A PW spokesman indicated that “Pratt & Whitney and our airframe OEMs (manufacturers), working in coordination with the regulatory authorities, have recommended additional inspections of the low-pressure compressor for PW1500G and PW1900G engines to keep the fleet operational. The engines continue to meet all criteria for continued airworthiness. We are working closely with our customers to minimize disruption to their operation.”
Another Airworthiness Directive for the GTF family is anticipated from the FAA, which already issued another for the larger PW1100G earlier this month. With multiple problems with both sizes of the GTF engines currently in service, Pratt & Whitney has not been living up to its motto “dependable engines” and will likely need to fund additional inspections and downtime for its airline customers.
Hopefully, the remaining problems with both GTF engines can be fixed soon, as the efficiency and environmental performance of the GTF holds great promise. But with inadequate reliability, it remains just that, a promise.