How the Ongoing Troubles with PW1000G Will Affect the Engine MRO Market?

Release date: 2023 October 20

This year wasn’t an easy one for aircraft engine manufacturers. While most of the recently emerged aircraft engine issues are at some level affecting the entire market, the problems faced by Pratt & Whitney’s PW1000G engine are causing significant disruptions in both airline operations, as well as the engine MRO sector.

The PW1000G engine family is renowned for its geared turbofan technology, which is known for its efficiency and reduced environmental impact. However, the recent revelations have highlighted some substantial challenges that is impacting both the manufacturer, as well as the whole industry.

The PW1000G engine family powers key aircraft fleets, including the A320neo Family, A220, and Embraer E2 Family. While these engines did experience teething issues upon their initial entry into service in 2016, many of these problems had been resolved. Unfortunately, a new and substantial issue emerged, primarily affecting the A320neo family powered by PW1100G engines.

A most recent issue here revolves around contaminated powdered metal which was used in manufacturing between Q4 2015 and Q3 2021, which could lead to cracking in the stage 1 and stage 2 disks in the high-pressure turbine. Along with the whole turbine, these discs must be periodically inspected so the safe operation of the engines could be ensured. Initially, Pratt & Whitney claimed that these checks could be conducted during regularly scheduled maintenance checks, yet, as the story did unfold, it became evident that another scenario is about to take place.

This year, in a late July earnings call, Pratt & Whitney announced that by the middle of September, around 200 engines needed to be pulled out of service and inspected before their regular maintenance visits. This already indicated that the manufacturer has discovered the elevated risk of cracking, and even the minimal risk was considered too significant to ignore.

Furthermore, the company revealed that an additional 1,000 engines would need to be examined over the following 9 to 12 months. Yet, the manufacturer assured that many of these inspections could be integrated into standard scheduled shop visits.

However, on September 11, Pratt & Whitney released an update with an even more alarming forecast. Now, an additional 600 to 700 shop visits for inspection are required between 2023 and 2026, exceeding any of the initial projections. This implies that the manufacturer expects at least 350 Airbus jets – and up to 650 airplanes to be grounded through 2026, with the highest number occurring in early 2024.

These shop visits are not simple procedures where you can quickly check a component’s condition. In fact, Pratt & Whitney states that these inspections can take anywhere from 250 to 300 days to complete. The only silver lining in this update was that, beyond the PW1100Gs on the A320neo family, “other engine models currently are expected to be far less impacted .”

Of course, such developments have far-reaching implications for airlines that chose the PW1100G over the CFM LEAP engines for their A320neo family fleets. Airlines, especially those with a significant number of these engines in their fleet, such as IndiGo, Spirit, Wizz, Volaris, and Go First, have been hit hard. Go First even blamed Pratt & Whitney for its financial troubles.

The impact on airlines like Spirit, which had initially planned to ground 7 aircraft by year-end but may now need to ground more, is substantial. This affects not just their operational capabilities but also their financial health.

European airline Wizz Air, another major player, also operates Pratt & Whitney GTF engines. While the details of their compensation arrangements with Pratt & Whitney remain undisclosed, they anticipate “treatment according to their status” as the largest customer of the OEM. However, uncertainty looms regarding the scope, duration, and impact of these inspections on their operations.

The extent of the problem has likely eroded airlines’ trust in Pratt & Whitney’s guidance, and they are now preparing for the worst. Yet, in the meantime, air carriers will need to navigate through this challenging situation and make adjustments to their schedules and planned operations.

This issue also has global ramifications, affecting air carriers which operates several A320neo family aircraft fitted with the affected engines. The impact on these airlines is expected to be significant, requiring careful planning and mitigation strategies. As it is obvious that the current issues with PW1100G have placed substantial stress on the engine MRO sector, which is already facing a growing demand for shop visits, our team at EngineStands.com, already experiencing increased demand for certified PW1000 type engine stands, is also preparing for both ongoing and upcoming activity in the market and beyond.

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