Pratt & Whitney Faces New GTF Engine Headache

By Spyros Georgilidakis | July 27, 2023

Over 1,200 Pratt & Whitney GTF (Geared Turbofan) engines need to undergo unscheduled inspections, it was revealed earlier this week. But why?

The airline industry is undergoing a rapid post-pandemic ramp-up in operations. Aircraft and engine manufacturers are trying to catch up accordingly. Even before the pandemic, supply-chain constraints made the switch from the previous generation of single-aisle engines to the next one, a slow and expensive process.

Pratt & Whitney Faces New GTF Engine Headache
Photo: Jan Rosolino

However, the latest problem affecting Pratt & Whitney GTF engines doesn’t appear to involve the engine maker’s supply chain. The company will issue a service bulletin on the matter in the next few days. The problem has to do with contaminated powdered metal, used to make high-pressure turbine disks in PW1000-series GTF engines.

In total, the problem affects over 1,200 GTF engines, which Pratt & Whitney made between 2015 and 2021. P&W made over 3,000 PW1000 engines in this timeframe, for Airbus A320neo-family, A220-family, and Embraer E2-family aircraft.

Photo: Tomas Piachewski

This powdered-metal contamination is not affecting current-production engines. But fixing these 1,200 engines means removing them from the aircraft. It will take 60 days to inspect and replace affected parts on each engine.

Pratt & Whitney GTF Inspections and Repairs

Crucially, the first 200 of these 1,000 engines need to undergo inspection by mid-September. These are the oldest (or higher-time) of these engines in service. But this requirement is coming at a terrible time for the airlines operating the affected aircraft.

Pratt & Whitney Faces New GTF Engine Headache
Photo: Ganbaruby, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Pratt & Whitney GTF engine is one of two options for operators of Airbus A320neo-family aircraft. According to Reuters, the airlines with the highest numbers of aircraft using these engines include Spirit, JetBlue, Hawaiian, and Wizz Air.

A lack of capacity in repair centers will make scheduling these repairs a major challenge for these and other airlines. The industry already faces challenges from supply-chain bottlenecks, a lack of pilots, a lack of other employees and airport personnel, and possible weather problems.

Photo: Delta Air Lines

Unsurprisingly, this GTF engine issue is having an effect on the share price of RTX (formerly Raytheon), the parent company of Pratt & Whitney. The engine maker is hoping to get more orders from new customers ordering A320neos and other GTF-equipped aircraft. IndiGo, an Indian low-cost carrier that recently placed the world’s largest aircraft order, still hasn’t announced which engine they want for these A320neos.

As for affected aircraft, changing their Pratt & Whitney GTF engines to a different type, even if it might be theoretically possible, is out of the question. Not only would such a change be costly and time-consuming, but CFM’s LEAP engine is facing its own supply chain and longevity issues, requiring visits to repair centers.


1 comment

  • I wasn’t aware that powdered metalurgy was usable in the hot section of a jet engine. With that said, it seems to me that there were some quality control problems here. Especially in aviation, you get what you pay for. Going with a cut rate supplier can bite you later on. With expensive consequences.

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