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GoAir to fly snag-hit Airbus A320neo planes at lower altitude

LiveMint logoLiveMint 29-03-2017 Tarun Shukla

New Delhi: Low-fare airline GoAir has started flying its five Airbus A320neo planes at a lower altitude to limit strain on the aircraft engine, a person aware of the matter said.

India’s largest airline IndiGo has also asked its pilots to fly the A320neo at 30,000 feet against the usual 36,000 feet, Mint first reported on 24 March. The directive followed engine maker Pratt & Whitney’s advice to avoid a possible glitch in the engine lubrication system. IndiGo, run by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, is among the biggest users of A320neos.

Go Airlines (India) Ltd, which operates the 11-year-old GoAir, has 24 planes, of which five are A320neos. Thirteen more A320neos are expected to join by March 2018.

“All the A320neos have been mandated to fly at the new altitude,” the person cited above said on condition of anonymity.

ALSO READ | Pratt & Whitney to replace engines in A320neo jets as turbofan glitches persist

At higher altitudes, air density is lower and the engine must work harder to develop the same thrust, increasing temperature. Lower altitude could help keep the temperatures down. However, flying lower in denser air consumes more fuel, another person familiar with the matter said, also on condition of anonymity.

“There is a certain increase—about 4-6% in fuel burn. That’s the broad range. There was a recommendation from Pratt & Whitney; naturally, this seems to be the optimum altitude until the fix comes in, which is expected very soon,” this person said.

GoAir has 139 more A320neos on order with Airbus. The airline plans to use them for international operations expected to start this year.

A GoAir spokesperson declined to comment for the story.

A320neos have had a tough time this year. In January, an IndiGo flight had a so-called rejected take-off at Mumbai. In February, a GoAir flight from Delhi had to return to the airport after an engine fire 15 minutes into the flight. In the same month, a GoAir flight had to make an emergency landing and an IndiGo flight had to fly minus passengers to Delhi from Baroda.

GoAir CEO Wolfgang Prock-Schauer said in an interview in February that Pratt & Whitney “will support us properly with spare engines and other support needs to be there so we can overcome the initial phase and don’t have any flight disruptions” and a full fix could take about 18 months.

Pratt & Whitney hasn’t offered comments on the matter but has said its engines are safe to fly.

Directorate General of Civil Aviation has asked IndiGo and GoAir to increase surveillance of these planes, besides specifying other restrictions on when and where to fly them.

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