IATA director general Willie Walsh says he has been shocked by the durability levels of current-generation engines, which are “way, way lower than anything I have experienced in my career.”
Walsh, speaking during a panel discussion at the Paris Air Forum on 16 June, said airlines were being hamstrung by the issue and the related problem of extended maintenance periods caused by supply chain weakness and a shortage of spare engines.
“There is huge frustration having an aircraft and not being able to fly it. This has gone on far too long.
“The [airline] industry is extremely frustrated by what we are seeing and we are still not seeing any end in sight for a lot of these issues,” he says. “It has gone beyond what anybody could cope with or deem acceptable.”
Operators of the Pratt & Whitney PW1500G-powered Airbus A220 in particular are seeing “major problems”, he says, pointing to Air Baltic, which, he says, has performed over 220 engine changes on its fleet of a little over 40 aircraft.
“That’s unprecedented. If anyone thinks there isn’t a problem, there’s a huge problem at the moment,” says Walsh.
Walsh says he was “surprised” when airline chief executives told him ”about durability issues and time-on-wing” afflicting current-generation powerplants.
“I was shocked when I heard some of the figures – they were way, way lower than anything I had experienced in my career.”
Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airline, concurs. “They don’t have the on-wing durability that we expect. They need to take the time out and restore the quality of engineering,”
Clark says it is seeing engines changed after as little as 2,000-3,000 cycles.
He also thinks the engine manufacturers need to shoulder some of the blame rather than blaming those further down the chain: “It is more about the OEMs getting the engines right than the supply chain – they need to go back to [delivering] the engines that everybody wants.”
Speaking on the same panel, Rob Watson, president of civil aerospace at Rolls-Royce, says engine manufacturers have driven technology to its limits, “right at the boundaries of our understanding”, in pursuit of fuel efficiency gains “but it is clear it has had an impact on the durability of the engines.”
Although Rolls-Royce engines are not currently suffering the same issues as those of narrowbody suppliers CFM International and P&W, it has had its own recent issues with premature wear on components in the Trent 1000.
Watson is confident the industry will overcome the challenges but cautions it will not happen overnight as technology improvements need to be industrialised: “It is about enabling our suppliers to deliver this new technology,” he says.