An Airbus A350-1000 lands during in Colomiers near Toulouse, southwestern France. Picture: REUTERS/REGIS DUVIGNAU
An Airbus A350-1000 lands during in Colomiers near Toulouse, southwestern France. Picture: REUTERS/REGIS DUVIGNAU

London — Pratt & Whitney is investigating incidents of excessive vibration in its engines that power Airbus SE’s A320neo aircraft, the latest in a series of problems that have plagued the new turbine, according to people familiar with the matter.

The US engine maker, a unit of Farmington, Connecticut-based United Technologies, had yet to identify the cause and was assessing if there is a connection to prior design issues, the sources said, asking not to be identified as the process isn’t public. Pilots have in some instances received alerts of high vibration levels during flights.

Pratt’s geared turbofan, a step-change in the efficiency of turbines for commercial aircraft, has been hit by a run of design flaws that have grounded planes, delayed deliveries and prompted hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation claims. About 10 Pratt-powered A320neos are typically grounded at one time as the manufacturer installs fixes.

PROBLEMS WITH THE NEW PRATT ENGINES HAVE HOBBLED PRODUCTION OF THE LATEST GENERATION OF PLANES

"Pratt & Whitney is working closely with our customers to support their operations while continuing to retrofit the fleet to the latest engine configuration," the company said.

A spokesman for Airbus declined to comment. The plane maker, based in Toulouse, France, has said it still expects to meet its goal to deliver about 800 aircraft this year. The company’s shares fell as much as 1.4% and were down 1% at €109 as of 2.59pm on Thursday in Paris. In New York, United Technologies closed down 0.7% on Wednesday.

For Airbus to meet its annual production goal, there is "no scope for even minor further disruption arising from the new vibration issue", Jefferies International analyst Sandy Morris told clients. "The risk is that the series of issues with the GTF engine may have begun to test investors’ patience."

Problems with the new Pratt engines, and to a lesser extent a competing turbine from CFM International, have hobbled production of the latest generation of narrow-body planes from Airbus and US rival Boeing. The setbacks, at a time when demand is surging, have turned what should be a boom time for plane makers into a period marred by aircraft groundings, safety warnings and extra costs.

The scale of the latest problem appears less disruptive than recent issues with the engine’s combustor, oil seal and knife-edge seal, the sources said.

Bloomberg