A220 Engine Woes Continue as More Operators Forced to Ground Airframes

Supply chain issues are mounting pressure on engine maker Pratt & Whitney as more Airbus A220 operators are forced to ground the type.



May 5, 2023

DALLAS - Ongoing supply chain issues continue to cause a headache for operators of the Airbus A220. Several airlines have been forced to ground the type due to problems with its Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan (GTF) PW1500G engines.

Many operators have encountered problems, while P&W deal with turnaround time delays as they attempt to resolve the issues and have struggled to source replacements.

Air Baltic Airbus A220-300 YL-ABK. Photo: Dominik Csordás/Airways

Swiss Issues

Lufthansa Group member Swiss Air Lines (LX) is the latest carrier to reveal a problem, with one-third of its A220 fleet now grounded. The airline has leased six A220-300s from Air Baltic (BT) to cover the slack. LX currently operates 30 examples, including the -100 and larger -300 series.

This is not the first time LX has encountered issues with its A220s. The carrier grounded its entire fleet in 2019 after one of its -300s experience engine problems mid-flight.

Four separate inflight engine shutdowns also led the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue airworthiness directives to A220 operators in 2019 and 2020.

On May 4, it was revealed that Iraqi Airways (IA) had been ordered to ground its entire A220-300 fleet by the Iraq Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA). The airline currently has four of the type in service.

Latvian flag carrier Air Baltic (BT), whose fleet is made up entirely of the A220, was forced to temporarily wet-lease additional aircraft (four Avion Express (X9) Airbus A320s) between March 27 and May 31, 2023, due to almost a dozen of its -300s being grounded.

In a statement, Martin Gauss, BT President and CEO said that "the extended turnaround times for Pratt & Whitney servicing the engines are causing operational disruption for airBaltic. They, as a long-term partner of airBaltic, could not keep the given promise again on the improved turnaround times. Therefore, airBaltic is contracting replacement capacity in the form of ACMI wet-lease aircraft."

Photo: Iraqi Airways.

African Airlines

Meanwhile, Air Tanzania (TC) has been grappling with issues with its A220 fleet since November, when it was forced to operate a reduced schedule due to the grounding of three out of its four -300 examples. At the time, Air Tanzania CEO Ladislaus Matindi said, "The PW1524G-3 engines made by Pratt & Whitney for A220-300 planes are supposed to be removed for maintenance after 5,260 landings, but due to engine design defects, they are removed before even 1,000 landings."

Air Senegal (HC), who became the fourth African operator of the A220 in January 2022, quickly began to look for a replacement for the type after engine issues led it to cancel the lease of five further airframes due to arrive from Macquarie AirFinance.

In March, the two carriers joined forces to consider joint action against the engine maker. Managers from both airlines met to discuss the best source of action moving forward to find a solution to the persistent engine issues.

State-owned flag carrier Egyptair (MS) has also grounded seven of its 12 A220s for the same reason.

Egyptair Airbus A220. Photo: Airbus.

Other GTF Engine Issues

GTF engine issues are also causing a headache for Airbus A320 family operators. Lufthansa (LH) has been forced to ground three newly delivered A320neos.

Indian low-cost carrier Go First (G8) recently suspended operations and declared bankruptcy, citing issues with its A320neo family aircraft's GTF engines as the primary reason for the grounding.

These engine problems come as the global airline industry ramps up for what is set to be a bumper summer season. P&W has said it is working hard to resolve the issues and hopes that the industry-wide supply chain issues will subside later this year.


Featured Image: Swiss Airbus A220-300 (HB-JCM). Photo: Adrian Nowakowski/Airways.