Exclusive: Pratt & Whitney A320neo engine suffers new test snag

Fri Feb 26, 2016 6:23pm EST
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By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) - UTC's Pratt & Whitney has suffered a fresh problem during testing of new aircraft engines for the Airbus A320neo, but flight trials of the latest version of Europe's best-selling airliner are continuing, people familiar with the matter said.

The problem occurred when an oil pump failed after an engine had been deliberately shut down in flight and left to turn with the natural airflow, a process known as "windmilling" which is designed to ensure an aircraft can fly on only one engine.

"We found a bearing had seized within the main oil pump. We have never seen that anywhere in flight tests," an industry executive with direct knowledge of the matter said, adding that such engines had been subjected to thousands of test runs.

Pratt & Whitney is carrying out an internal investigation into the problem which happened about two weeks ago. Early signs point to a manufacturing fault in the broken part, another person close to the matter said.

Airbus and Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies, confirmed the incident in response to queries from Reuters.

"These are the types of things you find in routine flight testing," a Pratt & Whitney spokesman said.

"In this particular case, we haven't seen it before but we study it carefully to make sure we understand the root cause because our objective is always for the engine to perform flawlessly."

A spokeswoman for Airbus (AIR.PA: Quote) said the incident had "no impact on the overall flight test campaign".   Continued...

The logo of U.S. manufacturer Pratt & Whitney is seen on an engine of Swiss airline's new Bombardier CS100 passenger jet at Zurich airport near the town of Kloten June 18, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann