Pratt & Whitney Close to Fix for Part That Delayed Airbus Jets

(Bloomberg) -- Pratt & Whitney is close to finalizing the redesign of a faulty engine part that forced Airbus SE to halt deliveries of its A320neo narrow-body jet at the start of the year.

Once approved by regulators, the revamped knife-edge seal would be fitted to turbines during regular maintenance and without any further disruption, Airbus executive Klaus Roewe, who heads the A320 program, said in an interview.

Pratt first redesigned the seal last year after the original version was found to be prone to excessive wear. The new variant proved even more problematic, introducing a glitch that safety regulators warned could lead to mid-flight shutdowns. The United Technologies Corp. unit reverted to the initial design in order to maintain production while working on a permanent replacement.

A spokeswoman for Pratt & Whitney declined to comment on work on the company’s geared turbofan engine, which is used on the A320neo.

General Electric Co.-led CFM International, which competes to power the plane, has also suffered issues with its Leap design. All told, Airbus has been forced to store up about 100 of the narrow-body aircraft while they await engines, about two-thirds of them because of the issues at Pratt. Roewe said that with fixes at hand deliveries this year should still be completed as planned.

‘Good Transparency’

“We’re reasonably confident that the engine makers are going to meet their commitments,” he said. “We have good transparency.”

Roewe, who spoke after the opening of a fourth A320 production line at Airbus’s Hamburg plant that will help the company increase output to 60 narrow-bodies a month next year, said charges have been incurred from preparing parking space for the delayed jets, and from extra maintenace.

Airlines may also claim compensation for late deliveries and any disruption to operations, though the burden is likely to fall on Pratt & Whitney.

Commenting on the single-aisle market, Roewe said customers are increasingly looking to switch existing A320 orders to the bigger A321 variant. That model accounts for about 40 percent of output and could soon present half, he said.

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