The grounding of Swiss entire Airbus A220 fleet followed Tuesday’s incident when Geneva-bound flight LX359 originated in London, was diverted to Paris after the aircraft developped engine problems.
Subsequent examination by French investigators from BEA (France Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety) revealed ‘serious problems’ with the Pratt Whitney PW1500G Geared Turbofun jet engines that power the A220 aircraft.
As the investigation work was handed over to the American NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) from France’s BEA, “precautionary measures” were already being announced by Airbus and engine maker Pratt & Whitney, prompting operators to conduct “a once-off visual borescope inspection and engine low pressure compressor speed limitation”.
A spokesperson for Pratt&Whitney, cited on swissinfo.ch indicated that “Pratt & Whitney and our airframe OEMs (manufacturers), were 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,” a spokesman said, insisting that “The engines continue to meet all criteria for continued airworthiness.”
By Tuesday evening, however, twenty of Swiss 29 aircraft had been inspected with the engines « in impeccable condition » according to an airline statement available on Reuter’s website. While flights involving the A220 are set to resume normal schedule by Thursday, Wednesday cancellation of more than 50 flights may have impacted up to 10,000 passengers.
Tuesday’s flight LX359 incidents also prompted other A220 operators to conduct engine inspections, most notably Korean Air which has 10 aircraft.
The latest incident is one of three occurances these past few months with Swiss-operated A220 undergoing in-flight engine problems on July 25th and September 16th.
These incidents had already prompted US-based FAA to issue a so-called Airworthiness Directive mandating a thorough inspection of the Pratt & Whitney 1500G engines. Swiss, who is the launch customer of the A220 is its largest operator with 29 aircraft.