The Problem with Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100G Engines on the A320neo Family


I don’t often pay close attention to engine problems, because they seem to happen with some regularity. By that, I mean that there are manufacturing or maintenance issues that disrupt regular operations in one way or another. I’m not talking about safety-of-flight problems, which would warrant a much closer look. But in the past week I’ve started paying closer attention to the problems facing Pratt & Whitney’s PW1000G engines, specifically the PW1100G variant. It’s not good.

The PW1000G is something of a marvel. The idea of a geared turbofan had been written off years ago for commercial service because of its complexity and the extra weight involved, but Pratt took on the challenge and created a geared turbofan that actually works really well. I’m not going to explain what a geared turbofan is, because that part of the engine is working beautifully and is not the issue. If you want to learn more about it, read here.

Today, the family powers three primary fleets:

  • A320neo Family – PW1100G (about 40 percent with remainder powered by CFM LEAP)
  • A220 – PW1500G
  • Embraer E2 Family – PW1900G

Like all engines, the PW1000G family had teething issues, but many of those had been solved since they first went into service in 2016. That is… until this most recent, big problem surfaced that is primarily impacting the A320neo families powered by PW1100G engines.

Pratt had discovered an issue with contaminated powdered metal used in manufacturing between Q4 2015 and and Q3 2021 that could cause cracking in the stage 1 and stage 2 disks in the high pressure turbine. These obviously must be inspected at certain intervals to ensure there is no actual problem.

At first, Pratt said it knew the issue and all was fine; they’d just have to do the checks at regularly-scheduled maintenance visits. That was clearly not true.

On the company’s most recent earnings call in late July, it changed its tune. It said that by mid-September, 200 engines would need to be pulled out of service and inspected before regular visits. I assume this means they discovered cracking could lead to problematic results before regular maintenance checks even though the actual number of engines with cracking was small. Even the most minute risk was too much to let go. So, they had to move things up on the oldest engines.

Then beyond that, another 1,000 engines would need to be inspected in the following 9 to 12 months. The company assured investors that many of these inspections would be done during regular shop visits anyway. But then, the September 11 update came out.

That day, the company released an update with an even more concerning forecast. Now, there are an additional 600 to 700 shop visits required for inspection between 2023 and 2026. To be clear, this is above and beyond the original forecast. This means that Pratt expects an average of 350 airplanes to be on the ground through 2026 with the highest number coming in early 2024.

Let’s talk about these shop visits, because this is not like you can just lift a panel and see if something is good or not. No, in fact Pratt says that these shop visits take 250 to 300 DAYS to complete. I suppose the closest thing to good news that was released in this update was that beyond the PW1100Gs on the A320neo family, “other engine models currently are expected to be far less impacted.” So, hooray for that, if you believe Pratt at this point.

As you can imagine, this is very bad news for those airlines that chose the PW1100G over the CFM LEAP on their A320neo family fleets. Who is hit hardest? Well, let’s take a look, thanks to ch-aviation.

Current PW1100G Fleet Counts by Airline

Data via

This isn’t a list of all airlines but it’s those with the largest Pratt-powered A320 family fleets along with a few other US-based carriers for reference. What you can see here is that the most-highly impacted airlines are IndiGo, Spirit, Wizz, Volaris, and oh my Go First with most of its fleet impacted. In fact, Go First has blamed Pratt for putting the airline into bankruptcy, but that’s a whole different issue.

But let’s stay closer to home and look at Spirit in more detail. Spirit today has 85 A320neo family airplanes in the fleet. It had planned on having 7 of those grounded through year-end prior to this last update. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s a pretty big number of expensive airplanes not making money. And now that would seemingly have to climb higher.

At this point, I assume airlines have lost faith in Pratt’s guidance on the extent of this problem, and are just bracing for the worst. In the end, Pratt will have to pay up for this mess. It’s already planned a $3 billion write-down. But in the meantime, airlines will be scrambling to figure out what’s happening until firm plans are released.

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35 comments on “The Problem with Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100G Engines on the A320neo Family

    1. From what I understand UA has a long working relationship with Pratt and that was part of the reason. Also, the CFMs haven’t been without issue either and by diversifying your engine types you reduce the risk of a fleet wide grounding. UA must believe Pratt has gotten their issues fixed but I agree, it’s a little risky.

    2. And FWIW, this issue doesn’t affect UA, since the engines rolling off the line don’t have this issue.

      That being said I’m not sure they love P&W’s track record.

  1. CF: is this limited to production engines prior to a certain date? Can ‘loaner’ engines be used to keep the aircraft flying (some of them anyway)

    1. Exactly. Don’t engines get swapped in/out of planes pretty regularly? If the work truly will take 250-300 days (is that true days, or is it 250-300 person-days of labor?), it would likely make more sense to simply swap engines and work on the affected (or as-yet-uninspected) engines offline.

    2. Airlines own or lease more than two engines per plane. In some cases the engines are still owned by Pratt, the airline just pays for the number of hours the engine is powered on. (Power by the hour)

      Engines are a swappable component, so when an engine needs maintenance, they take it off the plane and put another engine on the plane, then the plane continues on.

      The issue Pratt is probably running into is that there aren’t enough defect free spares, which is grounding airplanes.

      1. So as new engines are manufactured, will they prioritize delivering for new air frames? Or put them in the pool as substitutes?

    3. David – They say it is engines manufactured into 2021 but not after. The problem with loaners engines is they just don’t have the capacity as Nick said. Airbus is ramping up production and they need all the new engines.
      Meanwhile, there are so many older engines that need to cycle through that there just isn’t the capacity, so airplanes will be grounded. Making things worse, there just isn’t enough capacity to do all the repair work needed, so airplanes have to sit on the ground waiting.

      1. Is repair capacity the reason for these shop visits taking 250 to 300 DAYS to complete? Otherwise, being an engine luddite, it’s hard to see how it would take 250-300 days to complete repairs or maintenance.

        1. Oliver – I assume it has to be. I don’t know the answer; just know what they said in the presentation that it would take that long.

        2. “
          When each engine is removed from the wing of an A320neo narrow-body jet, it will take an average of between 250 and 300 days for the aeroplane to be returned to its airline”

    1. Juan – The impact on Delta should be minimal if the problem doesn’t spread. The A220s would be a problem if they turned out to be impacted.
      But the A321neos didn’t start delivering until 2022. I don’t know when the engines were built, but I’d imagine most would not be part of the problem.

  2. I would love to know why the shop visit takes 250-300 days to complete, in layperson’s terms of possible. That seems like an extraordinary amount of time.

    1. Bill – I can’t say I fully understand it, but what I do hear is that they have ot basically dismantle the engine and rebuild it. They need to get the impacted parts out and then do some sort of testing to find the cracks. It’s not something that can be seen by the eye. Then I imagine part of that is building in the backlog of waiting time.

      1. 250-300 days from engine removal to that aircraft going back into service… not 250-300 days for engine overhaul. Big difference.

  3. Maybe Frontier can present this development to the anti-trust people as another great reason for them to acquire Spirit LOL

  4. This topic deserves attention because it impacts so many airlines.

    The chart above is somewhat confusing, however. I believe it is meant to show the percentage of GTF engines at each carrier that are 1100Gs and impacted. DL, for instance has many GTFs that are not affected on the A321NEO that are newer and on the A220 that are a different model of the GTF even though some are older.

    It is noteworthy that the most impacted airlines worldwide are low cost or ultra low cost carriers. This issue is having a major impact on the ability of that segment of the industry to grow which is benefitting legacy airlines which tended to order GTFs later.

    The reason for the screwup is that materials are being pushed further and further and there simply is not the level of testing; that was essentially the issue w/ the Rolls Royce Trents on the 787.
    If Pratt and Whitney weren’t part of RTX now, the company would probably be taken down by this.

    The long lead times is as much because P&W can’t produce replacement parts and engines fast enough to repair the number of engines that will be impacted. The inspections are necessary to verify how many engines need to have parts replaced but the frequency of inspections might end up being so high that engines that need repairs, not just inspection, will likely make it worthwhile to replace the suspect parts.

    As for the impact on Delta, their execs said recently they will get more info from P&W by the end of the month on impacts to their engines but they will make money on inspections because Delta Tech Ops is an authorized engine MRO for the GTF. That shop just opened in Feb and, like every GTF shop worldwide, will be booked w/ inspections and rebuilds for at least a year.

    UA chose the GTF over the LEAP in large part because UA is using compensation from P&W for the 777A engine groundings. Whether they use DL for engine maintenance when it comes time or not, they will be subsidizing DL at least indirectly.

    Many of the ULCCs including Spirit may get more in compensation from P&W than if they flew the planes given the low margins for low cost segment right now.

  5. This isn’t a GTF problem, it’s a manufacturing problem with the powders that get cast into logs and eventually machined into the discs that may have impurities that can then lead to cracks. The powders and discs are used across engine families made by Pratt but apparently the batches of potentially defective powders have been identified and tied to the GTF, I hope.

    1. correct us if I am wrong but the powders are or were manufactured by P&W, weren’t they? If not, who manufactured the powders and why hasn’t RTX pointed at them? and P&W is responsible for quality control of what goes into its engines regardless of who actually made the powder.

      It isn’t exclusively a GTF only issue but the GTF is P&Ws primary product.

      The only thing that makes this different from the Rolls-Royce engine issues is that there is such a high demand for new narrowbody aircraft that P&W will get things fixed before airlines can switch and get LEAP engines

      P&W is playing a careful game of doing repairs even if they take time while keeping new engine commitments to Airbus and Embraer intact to the greatest degree possible

  6. Not to let P&W off the proverbial hook…
    But, since these airlines need all thier planes working. They should be much more proactive in a perfect scenario. And perfect is definitely what one should strive for by manufacturers and the customers.
    As we all know fan blades have been a very prominent reason for catastrophes around the world for years. How many thousands of people and billions of dollars will it take to get closer to perfect.

  7. HMI of Claysville New York provides the powder, they are a P&W owned company.

    All the disks are made in Columbus Georgia Forge, another P&W division. It is a sole source and it’s capacity is already overcommitted. P&W has starting adding new capacity, but it will take at least 2 years to come on line. This problem basically doubles the demand on an already overstretched resource.

    The same technology and manufacturing processes are used for all P&W engines since the 1980s, so all P&W engine programs are impacted. These include the other models of the GTF and legacy engines such as PW2000, PW4000 and V2500. The problem is not contained to the PW1100 and there will be further fleet maintenance plans for these engines, see the comments in the P&W presentation. The design of the PW1500 and PW1900 are very similar, so hard to see how they will not face similar inspection requirements.

    Normal engine overhaul times are around 60-90 days, thou parts issues over the last few years have pushed the average up to 100-120 days. The 300 day TAT is driven by lack of parts ( see notes on Forge above ) and overhaul shop capacity. Current P&W GTF network capacity is around 1000 engines per year, with many shops very new to the network and not up to full speed. So adding 1200 new visits is essentially adding another year’s demand into a already full network. The engines will sit and wait for induction slots, then sit and wait for parts.

    Pratt has a large spare pool – over 200 engines, unfortunately, many of these are impacted by the issue, or are sitting off wing waiting repairs and parts for previous technical issues still being resolved. Pratt can barely produce enough new engines to support their commitments to Airbus for new aircraft, so their ability to send new engines to help existing customers is very limited. Airbus charges heavy delay penalties, and the airlines have AOG penalty clauses. P&W senior management is directing each new or repaired engine based on minimizing the damage.

    As bad as it sounds, the $3B and recovery in 2 years are probably the best case scenarios.

    1. great info. Thank you.
      I am sure that PW is walking a very tight rope trying to keep new engine deliveries to Airbus moving while compensating airlines that have grounded airplanes.
      I suspect the only salvation is that this will play out heavily over the next 9 months which is less peak for air travel so the compensation that PW has to pay reflects lower profits for airlines.
      Can you list the GTF MRO shops and rough capacity?

  8. P&W is a junk company nowadays, their fighter jet engines run into lots of problems, too. They’ve been trying to fix the GTF for about 7 years since its entry into service, and instead of getting better, everything’s just been getting worse, to the extent that a whole airline was forced out of operation because of the legendary reliability of their Dependable Engines, I mean, how many times has that ever happened? When they fix one issue, another pops up. It’s just been a game of whack-a-mole ever since it entered service. It would be utterly astonishing if the GTF ever becomes a reliable engine.

    1. Rolls Royce had a similar issue with the RB211 in the 70’s. RR auto was separated from RR engines which subsequently declared bankruptcy. Once RB211 issues resolved, all were happy.
      Any engine development is very complex. Some executives will be asked to leave, some heads will roll, and P&W will dig deep to pay for the the grounding of jets. In the wings are GE, RR, and the LEAP consortium. P&W needs to get its house in order.

      The big issue is: Will P&W learn from its mistakes or will it obsess over the strike point of its stock options like Boeing did, and we know where that has lead them.

  9. Hi colleagues, if you do not mind could you please provide me this corrective action slide in full ?

      1. Hi there, as I know the PW release a new presentation that explains their corrective action plan that plan to start q2 2024 ans how they will repair the engines by changing the blades with a corrugated ones – I m looking for this presentation please

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