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By Aditi Shah
NEW DELHI - India's air safety watchdog on Thursday directed airlines to make extra checks on their Airbus A320neo aircraft fitted with Pratt & Whitney engines as part of new safety protocols after temporary grounding orders affected the planes last year.
IndiGo, India's biggest carrier by market share, and its low-cost rival GoAir, which fly the A320neos in the country, were forced to ground the aircraft on several occasions due to issues related to the engines.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered that airlines must inspect some parts of the 1100 series engines weekly and train the cabin and cockpit crew to deal with and report any kind of odour, burning smell or smoke.
"Log all the cases detecting odours/smoke in cabin during operation for necessary investigation and rectification," the DGCA said in its notification, adding that in all such cases the engine would need to be inspected in detail and used only after the defect is resolved.
Pratt & Whitney said in a brief statement that the DGCA's directive mandates some specific actions and that the engine maker would fully support the Indian carriers.
IndiGo, owned by InterGlobe Aviation, and GoAir did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside of office hours. Airbus was not immediately reachable.
The new rules, effective immediately, were issued days after a meeting between the civil aviation ministry, the regulator, the two airlines, aircraft manufacturer Airbus and engine maker Pratt & Whitney, owned by United Technologies to discuss the issues with the engines.
"During (the) meeting, it was decided to issue directive in addition to the existing measures related to combustion chambers and No. 3 bearing issues for identifying and correcting impending failures of dry face seal," the DGCA said.
The notification also said there would be restrictions imposed on the operation of A320neo flights to Port Blair - the capital of India's Andaman and Nicobar islands.
It was not immediately clear whether the regulator planned to restrict all A320neo flights to the island or only place restrictions on a specific series of the engines that have been found to have issues.
According to the Times of India, A320neo operations to Port Blair were being restricted as the airport has limited capacity.
Grounded aircraft at the airport further limits its capacity, the paper added, citing an unnamed official.
(Reporting by Aditi Shah; Additional reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by David Evans and Himani Sarkar)