Pratt engine issues decrease, airBaltic warns shortages will persist until 2024

Pratt & Whitney, the leading manufacturer of aircraft engines, has been facing shortages of its engines for Airbus A220 passenger jets. However, according to the head of airBaltic, the second-largest operator of Airbus A220 passenger jets, these shortages have eased but it will take around 18 months before the disruption is lifted altogether. A recall of Geared Turbofan engines for larger Airbus A320s for inspections and possible repairs, which roiled the aircraft industry last month, does not affect the Canadian-designed A220 which was the first aircraft to use the fuel-saving powerplants. Despite this, A220 operators have still had to grapple with some durability issues, compounded by a shortage of spare engines and maintenance bottlenecks that have collectively reduced the supply of working engines and left dozens of planes grounded.


Martin Gauss, Chief Executive of airBaltic, said in an interview that things have changed if we look at the engine. For us, it is getting better. On average 11 of its A220s were out of action during the first half, slowing an improvement in first-half earnings caused by buoyant air travel demand. The extra downtime reflects some durability problems as engines come in for maintenance sooner than expected, though these are not as severe as those seen on the larger A320 in hot and dusty climates. But the trend of so-called Unexpected Engine Removals is going down significantly after a recent modification involving a change of oil pipe. Gauss said ahead of the mid-year results that we now see this trend line changing. Assuming that it stays like this, I would say that at the end of 2024, we should have net zero missing engines.

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The Latvian airline has been forced to wet-lease replacement aircraft, meaning it hires jets complete with their crew and insurance, to help maintain its schedules. Gauss said the number of grounded planes would fall in coming months as more engines become available, then rise again in the winter. He said the engines were delivering on promised fuel savings when they were fitted and cleared to fly. 

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From the current forecast. I don't see us going back to zero (missing engines) before the end of next year, he said. airBaltic said it had bounced back to a net profit of 14.6 million euros in the first half from a loss of 91.0 million a year earlier, as revenues grew 52% to a record 291.3 million. The shortage of spare engines significantly impacted our performance in the second quarter, it said in a statement. Reflecting a rebound in air traffic following the pandemic, the airline said July marked the first time since 2019 that it had carried more than 500,000 passengers in a single month. Gauss said in June that airBaltic is in talks with Airbus to buy 30 more A220s as it prepares for a possible IPO next year.

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