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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

Airbus to miss deliveries over Pratt &Whitney engine problems

Hold up on Airbus’ hottest selling model the A320neo - a workhorse for airlines worldwide - threaten to expose the plane maker and Pratt to late penalties

An Airbus A320neo takes off in Colomiers near Toulouse, south-western France. The plane maker is suffering from engine troubles for the model. Regis Duvignau/Reuters
An Airbus A320neo takes off in Colomiers near Toulouse, south-western France. The plane maker is suffering from engine troubles for the model. Regis Duvignau/Reuters

Airbus will miss its delivery target for Pratt & Whitney-powered A320neo narrow-body jets this year, after problems with the engines caused an almost three-month halt in shipments, people familiar with the matter said.

The Toulouse, France-based plane maker expects to deliver 30 to 40 fewer of the aircraft than previously anticipated, according to one of the sources. Airbus had planned to hand over about 210 of the Pratt-powered jets - one of two engine options for the A320neo - during the rest of this year. It could get closer to that target if Pratt, a unit of United Technologies, can accelerate engine production beyond current levels.

The delays on Airbus’ hottest selling model - a workhorse for airlines worldwide - threaten to expose the plane maker and Pratt to late penalties from frustrated customers. The tardiness also will pressure Airbus’s effort to ramp up production generally, reducing room for manoeuvring in its schedule. The company had planned to use this year to catch up from other delivery delays from 2017, a goal that is now out of reach.

IndiGo, India’s biggest airline, is the largest customer for the A320neo model with 430 jets on order. The airline has previously said it has been forced to lease A320ceo planes on short-term lease, adding to costs.

Airbus had said in early June that it expected higher costs to manage delivery of scores of aircraft that were parked without engines after the latest issue with a knife-edge seal on the high-tech engine, one of several in a new generation of fuel-saving power plants that have suffered through persistent teething pains.

At the time, commercial-aircraft chief Guillaume Faury called the situation “challenging” but said that “if the engine manufacturers stick to their plans, we will stick to ours or very close”.

Airbus can still reach its overall production target for shipping 800 planes of all its models this year, it said, declining to comment on specifics of the A320 programme. Airbus is due to publish monthly order and delivery totals for June this week.

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“At the end of the day or year, what matters is achieving the guidance, to have delivered around 800 aircraft and the corresponding, incoming cash linked to those deliveries,” the company said.

The company can even meet its target for deliveries of the A320 family of planes, people familiar with the matter said, by picking up the slack with other models, including the A320ceo. That variant is less expensive than the more fuel-efficient neo, which stands for new engine option.

The company plans to ship about 210 more A320neo planes with engines made by CFM International, a joint venture of Safran and General Electric, one of the people said.

Pratt didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The latest problem in the engine - a fault in its knife-edge seal that led to in-flight shutdowns - is just the most recent in a series of afflictions for the turbine. Bloomberg reported last month that Pratt & Whitney is close to finalising a redesign of the faulty engine part.

The other powerplant choice for the A320neo, CFM’s Leap turbine, has also contributed to the number of aircraft that have been undelivered. As a result, Airbus has been forced to store aircraft in France, China, Germany and the US awaiting engine installation.