Miramar, Florida-based Spirit Airlines has announced the grounding of their brand-new Airbus A320neo immediately, due to engine inconsistencies.
The airline was the North American launch customer for the neo, Airbus’ newest update to the incredibly successful A320-family of aircraft, where over 5,000 examples are in service.
Last weekend, the airline announced a complete grounding of the aircraft due to the continuous problems with the brand-new Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engines. Four of the five examples of the fleet have previously had problems with the engine, in which the issue was described as “Engine Oil Chip Detected.”
Maintenance for the airline has identified that cold temperatures have caused the oil bleed system to freeze shut midflight on occasion, which could potentially lead to catastrophe. Due to the issue, Spirit has told pilots in recent weeks to avoid flying the aircraft above 30,000 feet to reduce the strain on the engines. Indian low-cost carrier Indigo has faced similar problems and told pilots to restrict their A320neo examples to 30,000 feet, as well.
With the grounding, the examples parked have sat in the sun at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport for the last few days, where the landing gear, engines, and cockpit have been covered to indicate maintenance.
Due to this significant loss to the already tightly-scheduled fleet Spirit operates, the airline announced Saturday that the flights affected will be outsourced to Miami Air, a charter company that operates a fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft. The Spirit Airlines Master Executive Council (MEC) said in a statement “As you may be aware, on Friday the VP of Flight Operations notified the MEC Chairman of Spirit’s intent to contract out revenue flying utilizing Miami Air pursuant to CBA section 1.B.2.”
Reports of engine problems on the aircraft began in December, where an example flying between Chicago and Orlando had an engine problem midflight requiring the pilots to return the engine to idle. The flight returned to Chicago safely without injuries, however this was the beginning of a series of incidents this particular aircraft was involved in. Other incidents include engine chamber combustion failure, a wiped bearing indicator, and engine oil leakage, among others.
Details from the airline and manufacturer are yet to be released.