More trouble for Pratt & Witney: another engine failure, isn’t it time to change?

Back in July an A220 of SwissAir was forced off a flight from Geneva to London City and diverted to Paris CDG with an engine failure.

The issue was caused by the left Pratt &Whitney PW1524G and the cause is the disappearance of the the low-pressure compressor stage 1 rotor, described as ‘missing’.

This is just another engine type that has come under scrutiny.

GE is suffering from issues with the new 777-9 engines causing a huge delay. Ongoing LEAP engine problems, the 787 Rolls Royce engines, the EA A380 engines, and recently issues on A350 engines – all requiring investigations and remedial work.

These issues are all connected. They have one core cause.

Airlines want low costs and reduced fuel burn. The manufacturers want engines that deliver power for modern aircraft and what the airlines want – lower costs, noise and emissions.

What they don’t want is the engine manufacturers taking long enough to develop the engines properly.

The engine makers are themselves as much to blame. Pressurised by share holder demand for profits, speed of delivery, over-promising to manufacturers on delivery dates and development times, all contribute to improperly developed engines.

There is a phrase “commercial acceptability” that covers this issue.

Manufacturers determine a point where it’s just about acceptable to put something into service – it may not be – almost certainly isn’t perfect. But it can be trialled out on the public and rolling improvements made. Something might go wrong, some compensation may be paid, but that’s OK. The cost in terms of share prices and lost profits outweigh the risk.

The whole cycle of airline and engine development is being pushed at an unsustainable pace. Boeing and the engine makers have proven time and again they’re going to far, too fast, yet nothing is done.

Peoples lives are risked, some people die. But it’s OK as long as the share price stays high.

A few days ago several major corporate heads said profits and share prices shouldn’t be the legal first obligation of a company. It’s time someone listened.