Technological advances in multi-engine aircraft over three decades had made engine failure a rare occurrence, with only about 25 failures worldwide a year. A twin-engine aircraft like an A320 can land safely with one operational engine, but A320neos powered by Pratt & Whitney (PW) 1100 engines have had at least one engine failure per month since the time they were introduced globally in January 2016.

The recent incidents in India involve the March 5 IndiGo A320neo engine failure on takeoff from Mumbai. The aircraft took off at 6.40pm, only to return for an emergency landing at 7.10pm with one working engine. Before that, on February 24, a GoAir A320neo that took off from Leh had a midair engine failure.

Sources said IndiGo and Go Air were informed of the DGCA’s decision, issued in a press note around 4.30pm, earlier in the afternoon. The note said that A320neos fitted with “PW engines beyond ESN 450” would be grounded with immediate effect. By evening, A320neos were grounded in airports across the country, as thousands of passengers braced for delays and cancellations.

Air safety expert Capt Mohan Ranganathan said, “The DGCA shouldn’t have waited this long to ground the aircraft. It’s time we realised that passenger safety is more important than commercial requirements.”

Last month, a PIL was filed based on TOI’s reports in the Bombay high court. It sought the grounding of the entire A320neo fleet. Last Friday, the court asked the DGCA to file a reply. IndiGo grounded three A320neos following a directive from the European aviation safety agency in February, which took the total number of grounded 180-seater A320neos in India to 14. Currently, Indi-Go, with a market share of 40 %, operates a fleet of 155 A320, including 45 A320neos (new engine option); 7% of these are now grounded.

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