IndiGo Wins High Court Decision To Continue Airbus A320neo Flights Just Days After Regulator Grounded Them

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Indian budget carrier IndiGo is allowed to resume flights with it’s Airbus A320neo aircraft based on a court decision won from the High Court in Delhi yesterday.

Aviation watchdog DGCA had on March 12 ordered IndiGo and GoAir to immediately ground 11 A320neo planes powered with a certain series of Pratt & Whitney engines after three incidents of mid-air engine failures in less than a month.

It’s uncertain how this decision will resonate with customers who might still refuse to travel on the aircraft after the extensive press coverage of the serious incidents even though there weren’t any fatalities or crashes related to it.

The Economic Times, the financial arm of The Times of India reported extensively about the case in the past days (access the latest update here).

The Delhi High Court today refused to ground the entire fleet of IndiGo’s A320neo aircraft, which allegedly have defective engines.

Advocate Yeshwanth Shenoy’s said in his plea that IndiGo’s A320neo fleet should be grounded until the manufacturers give in writing that the existing defects have been rectified and the DGCA is satisfied.

“Your (petitioner) first prayer seeking direction to Directorate General of Civil Aviation to ground the entire fleet of Airbus A320neo cannot be granted,” a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said.

It, however, said Shenoy’s plea seeking various other directions to the authorities, including an order to ensure that all accidents are published on DGCA’s website within 24 hours of its occurrence, shall be heard on March 20.T

The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had ordered IndiGo and GoAir to ground it’s 11 A320 Neos that are fitted with Pratt&Whitney PW 1100 engines with immediate effect. Of these, eight are owned by IndiGo and remaining by GoAir.

European regulators have so far not taken any decisive action in regards to the engine troubles.

The manufacturer of the engines, Pratt & Whitney, and Airbus face additional problems delaying the production and delivery of the A320neo.

Pratt, part of United Technologies Corp said its solution to the “knife-edge seal” issue was based on a design with which it had “significant experience,” without giving further details.

Reuters had reported earlier on Wednesday that the company was likely to return to a previous seal as a way of temporarily dealing with the issue that safety authorities warned could shutdown a plane’s engine mid-flight.

Some A320neo deliveries were halted after problems arose in January, which Pratt has said stems from an engineering change it made last summer to the “knife-edge seal” in the high-pressure compressor near the rear of the engine. Pratt said it will restart engine deliveries in early March.

Issues with engines and reliability of a certain aircraft type can prove to be extremely costly for airlines even without a legal decision such as in this case. Ultimately the voice of confidence from the consumers is the decisive factor in the question if the company can actually fill it’s seats and make money.

In 2010 Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and Qantas all canceled Airbus A380 flights because of engine issues. Back then the manufacturer of the engines was Rolls Royce.

Conclusion

It’s a slippery slope when the judiciary goes against the safety regulator and allows airlines to continue operating despite an unresolved safety issue. India’s aviation sector doesn’t exactly have the the most excellent safety record by any stretch and their regulator coming forward in such a way is a strong position.

On the other hand there are always a lot of politics, economic considerations and one might also suspect possible bribery in play so it’s hard to say who is right ultimately. Should the worst happen and a plane falls out of the skies after this court decision then the responsibility will be shifted in that direction as well.

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