Mumbai: The $20 billion agreement InterGlobe Aviation Ltd signed in June with aircraft engine maker CFM International may have triggered the public spat between the two promoter groups of the company that operates the IndiGo airline, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
On 17 June, IndiGo said it placed an order to buy CFM International LEAP-1A engines to power 280 Airbus A320neo and A321neo aircraft. The deal includes supply of spare engines and an engine overhaul support agreement.
The board’s decision to place such a large order with CFM was not supported by RG Group, the entity controlled by InterGlobe Aviation co-founder Rakesh Gangwal, who has been managing the technical aspects of IndiGo since its inception in 2005. For over a decade of its existence, IndiGo had relied on engines from Pratt and Whitney, a division of United Technologies.
It was only in 2016 that IndiGo started ordering engines from CFM after it began facing problems with Pratt and Whitney engines. IndiGo currently operates a fleet of 17 A320neo aircraft powered by CFM56-5B engines as part of a total fleet of 215 A320/A321 family aircraft.
According to the June announcement, the first LEAP-1A-powered A320neo plane is scheduled for delivery in 2020.
An email sent to IndiGo did not elicit a response.
On 11 February 2018, Airbus informed IndiGo about an issue in some of the engines powering its A320neo aircraft. “Product Safety Boards of Pratt & Whitney and Airbus, post evaluating the PW1100G-JM engine issue, have decided that all neo deliveries are on hold till further notice. The issue impacts a limited sub population of engines and IndiGo had to ground 3 of its aircraft in the interim,” according to a regulatory filing by IndiGo.
The filing mentioned that Airbus and Pratt and Whitney were working in close cooperation with each other and would swiftly communicate on the way forward for future aircraft deliveries. This slowed down the operations of IndiGo, especially its plans to expand overseas operations.
IndiGo had said in a regulatory filing on 21 August 2017 that “regrettably, the Pratt & Whitney engines on this new aircraft have two specific components that start to wear out sooner than they should and as a result those engines need to be replaced much earlier than the normal replacement cycle for engines.”
Despite all this, Gangwal did not seem keen to explore new service pacts with CFM or any entity to equip A320neo aircraft for smooth operations. However, co-founder Rahul Bhatia and the board went ahead to clinch a long-term agreement with CFM.