India is investigating three separate incidents in the past two months where airline pilots had to shut down plane engines mid-flight made by a joint venture of General Electric Co. and France’s Safran SA, according to people familiar with the matter.
The so-called commanded in-flight shutdowns—when pilots intentionally turn off one of the two engines after encountering problems—may have stemmed from different issues. Modern commercial jetliners are equipped to fly and land safely with a single engine.
All three incidents, the people said, involved engines made by CFM International Inc., the GE-Safran joint venture. All the planes landed safely. The incidents involved two Airbus SE A320neo jets, operated by Air India Ltd., and a Boeing Co. 737 Max aircraft, operated by Indian carrier SpiceJet Ltd., according to the people.
India has seen a number of mid-flight shutdowns, and regulators have responded strongly in the past, once ordering IndiGo, the nation’s biggest airline, to ground some of its A320neo planes after engines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney experienced repeated glitches.
The issues come as CFM—which is the sole supplier of engines for Boeing’s 737 family of jets, and one of two suppliers for the A320neo—prepares to supply engines for the next batch of planes at IndiGo, the world’s biggest customer for the best-selling Airbus plane. Safran, which is working with GE on a new technology in which the engine’s blades operate without a traditional casing, is also considering setting up a repair facility in India after CFM won its biggest-ever order from IndiGo. The recent issues may also raise warranty costs for CFM.
The engine-maker said in a statement it’s engaging with authorities in India and clients to minimize operational disruptions. “Safety is our first priority, and we are working closely with our customers and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation,” it said.
Representatives for Airbus and Boeing had no immediate comment. A spokesman for India’s civil aviation ministry, which oversees the DGCA, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
In one of the latest incidents, an Air India A320neo flying from Mumbai to Bengaluru on Thursday was forced to return to its origin before reaching cruising altitude, data from flight-tracking website Flightradar24.com showed. On May 3, a SpiceJet 737 Max returned to Chennai just minutes into a scheduled flight.
A representative for Air India said in an email that the carrier was looking into the issue, saying it “accords top priority to safety and our crew are well adept and trained at handling such a situation.” A SpiceJet representative said its aircraft returned to Chennai after take-off “due to a technical issue” and that the aircraft landed safely.