By Robert Wall
LONDON -- European plane maker Airbus SE on Friday warned of new problems with the Pratt & Whitney engines on its A320neo planes, leading European air safety officials to issue emergency restrictions.
The move will force airlines operating the A320neo with affected engines to ground some of their planes.
The European Aviation Safety Agency Friday said it was aware of "several occurrences of engine in-flight shutdown" and other in-service events with the engine on the A320neo, Airbus's best-selling plane. It ordered flight restrictions on planes powered by those engines.
The problem with a core part of the engine is the latest in a string of setbacks that Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp., has suffered with its geared turbofan engines. Airbus last year was stuck with planes it had built but was unable to ship to airlines because they were awaiting engines from Pratt.
Since the A320neo entered service little more than 2 years ago, Pratt also has had to replace engines at a higher than expected pace because of component failures. Fixing all the problems has taken longer than expected, hobbling airline operations and creating a financial headwind for United Technologies.
Airbus said it was supporting Pratt & Whitney to identify the cause of the latest problem. Pratt & Whitney said Friday that "this issue is isolated to a limited subpopulation of engines" and airlines with potentially affected engines had been notified.
Airbus is ramping up production of multiple plane types, but repeatedly has encountered delays because of supplier problems.
Airbus said it was unclear what the impact from the latest supplier problem would be on plane deliveries this year. The European plane maker next week is due to give formal targets for plane deliveries this year, though it has indicated it hoped to ship close to 800 aircraft of all types, above the 718 shipped last year. Airbus last year fell short, though, on A320neo deliveries because of engine supply problems.
Airbus said 113 A320neo planes, spread over 18 airlines, feature the Pratt engine but not all those engines are affected by the part problem. The extent of the required groundings is still unclear.
A joint venture of General Electric Co. and France's Safran SA offer a rival engine, which also has suffered setbacks.
United Technologies shares dropped on the news Friday, trading down 2% to $125.00 in midafternoon after being above $128 earlier in the day.
--Doug Cameron and Thomas Gryta contributed to this article.
Write to Robert Wall at [email protected]