Spirit Airlines (NK, Fort Lauderdale International) expects to take seven aircraft out of service next month due to recently discovered problems with Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan (GTF) engines. This number is in addition to existing groundings attributed to different issues impacting the problem-plagued engines.

"This new issue is yet another frustrating and disappointing development,” said Spirit CEO Ted Christie while presenting quarterly results last week. Because of the groundings, Spirit's September capacity will reduce by 5% and its third-quarter revenues by 1.5%.

Spirit Airlines is the biggest United States-based user of the impacted GTF engines. As reported in ch-aviation late last month, Pratt & Whitney customers were advised of "a rare condition in powder metal used to manufacture certain engine parts" requiring accelerated fleet inspection.

The problem is specific to PW1100G-JM engines manufactured between 2015 and 2020 and fitted to A320N family aircraft, with the engine manufacturer warning that minute amounts of contamination were present in the metal used in the engine's high-pressure turbine discs. Consequently, the engines need to be taken out of service and inspected for micro-cracks, a process that could take up to 60 days per plane.

According to ch-aviation fleets data, Spirit Airlines operates seventy-nine A320-200Ns within a larger fleet of 201 aircraft. While all its A320-200Ns use the same Pratt & Whitney GTF engines, not all were manufactured within the identified time frame. In addition to the newly discovered engine issues, Spirit Airlines has seven A320-200Ns on the ground now because of separate problems with combustors and turbine blades. In 2024, it expects to have as many as ten A320-200Ns out of service for these reasons. Aircraft taken out of service because of the new micro-cracks threat come on top of this.

Christie says Pratt & Whitney will know more next month, including out-of-service timings. He also says that he is yet to discuss promised compensation but adds, “we have a long-standing partnership with them. They are an institution in the US. They have always stood by their customers and honoured their commitments, so we have no reason to doubt that this time.”

ch-aviation data reveals there are 1,569 active A320-200Ns placed with 102 customer airlines worldwide. However, given many customers elected to use CFM International LEAP engines and others have Pratt & Whitney GTF engines from outside the nominated time frame, the number of impacted aircraft reduces to around 600. The other big A320-200N operator in the United States is Frontier Airlines (F9, Denver International). In a stroke of good fortune for that airline, they went with CFM's LEAP engines.