Web of factors hit Geared Turbofan availability | Analysis | Airfinance Journal

Web of factors hit Geared Turbofan availability


Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan (GTF) engines have been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons lately.

Operators from around the world, but especially from India, have castigated the engine OEM for aircraft that remain grounded owing to issues with their GTF engines and shortages of spares.

In its bankruptcy filing earlier this month, Go First blamed Pratt & Whitney for its demise, saying the firm’s “faulty” GTF engines powering its Airbus A320neo fleet were responsible for reduced revenues as about half its operational fleet was grounded.

Go First said that while in 2019 some 7% of its A320neo fleet was grounded owing to GTF replacement issues this percentage had swelled to approximately 50% since December 2022. This cost it close to INR110 billion ($1.33 billion) in lost revenues and additional expenses, Go First said.

“Pratt & Whitney is committed to the success of our airline customers, and we continue to prioritize delivery schedules for all customers. Pratt & Whitney is complying with the March 2023 arbitration ruling related to Go First. As this is now a matter of litigation, we will not comment further,” Pratt & Whitney stated in response.

While engine makers struggle with these constraints, aircraft OEMs are still planning production ramp-ups which will put more pressure on the supply chain.

Pratt & Whitney’s GTF series of engines power the Airbus A220, A320neo, and Embraer E2 families of aircraft.

More than 1,500 aircraft powered by GTF engines have been delivered to operators thus far. Some in the industry and media have indicated that some 10-15% are parked, although these figures could not be verified.

“Initial concerns from the market were with the new geared turbofan architecture, a design that decouples the fan speed rotation from that of the remaining engines’ low pressure system. This part of the engine has performed very well.

"The problems experienced by the engines have more been with respect to certain core turbomachinery hardware, and the issues seem to be more pronounced on (1) early build engines, and (2) those in certain operational environments, including India,” Alton Aviation Consulting’s managing director, John Mowry, tells Airfinance Journal.

Operators which have a significant proportion of their GTF fleets parked include Go First (A320neo); Egyptair (A220); KLM (E2); Air Baltic (A220); and Indigo (A320neo).

On 17 May Indigo reportedly appealed to Pratt & Whitney again to quickly provide it with replacement engines in order to return grounded aircraft into service and fill the void left by the Go First bankruptcy.

Go First has extended the suspension of all its flights, this time to 26 May.

Mowry notes that the CFM International LEAP-1A and LEAP-1B have a parked fleet rate substantially lower than that of the GTF-powered aircraft.

“While GTF engine durability has been a challenge, decisions to park aircraft are typically the result of a lack of available spare engines. This is driven by lower engine durability driving more removals, as well as the currently limited number of engine shops with operational capacity to support demand for repairs which has exceeded expectations,” said Mowry.

He adds that longer turn-times in engine shops due to materials shortages further exacerbate the problem.

Another problem, Mowry says, is that OEMs are prioritising engines for delivery on new aircraft - rather than as spare engines - to meet rising aircraft production rates.

An OEM executive who wishes to remain anonymous tells AFJ that another factor affecting how quickly a customer receives a spare engine is its payment history.

“When you have a customer with a history of paying you late and a customer which is always on time, who would you help first?” the Singapore-based executive says, noting that this might have been “a significant part of the Go Air puzzle”.

There could, however, be a silver lining, at least for some airlines.

“Theoretically, less supply of aircraft in the system in a market where traffic is recovering should drive a more robust recovery in airfares and yields," says Mowry.

"However, the parked GTF powered aircraft represent at most a couple percent of the narrowbody fleet of around 15,000 units; so the impact on the overall market impact is not extreme.”

As for Go First, lessors have now requested deregistration of the majority of the airline’s fleet, although the Indian DGCA has not yet complied with the requests, even the ones that had been filed well before Go First’s insolvency proceedings began.

As a result, the Aviation Working Group (AWG) has issued a watchlist notice for India following recent lessor struggles to repossess aircraft there.

The notice was issued in light of the six-month blanket moratorium issued in respect of Go First and the non-action of the Indian DGCA to process the deregistration applications filed on the basis of IDERAs and leases terminated before the 10 May moratorium.

The outlook on this watchlist notice is negative.

AWG works towards the effective implementation of the Cape Town Convention (CTC) and its Aircraft Protocol in contracting states.

Go First owes creditors more than INR65 billion (almost $800 million), including INR26.6 billion to its aircraft lessors. The carrier’s financial creditors include Deutsche Bank, Central Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, IDBI Bank, and Axis Bank. The lessors worst affected by net book value are CDB Aviation and SMBC Aviation Capital.

Aercap and Icelease had successfully reclaimed their A320neos before Go First sought insolvency protection.

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Transaction Snapshot
Air Company | Bond issue | 01-24 | $1.5bn
Financial Close:
Some Aviation Trust
$1,500.00m USD
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