15.10.2019, 16:00: Today’s SWISS flight LX359 between London Heathrow (LHR) and Geneva (GVA) had to do an unscheduled landing in Paris Charles-de-Gaulle (CDG) following some engine issues. As this is the third incident with the A220 engine within three months, SWISS has taken the right decision to ground their entire fleet of 29 Airbus A220 as of today.

*UPDATE 15.10.2019, 21:15: Some aircrafts are flying again. Read more below*

SWISS A220 in Zurich / Picture by SWISS International Airlines AG

This is a sudden and breaking news: SWISS has grounded their entire A220-100 & A220-300 fleet following some issues with the engines. A lot of short-haul flight from Zurich and Geneva have been cancelled as of now. We are very welcoming the decision of the airline, as it should always be safety first! YourAviation has received the following statement from a spoke-person of the airline (as of 16:30 CET time):

“In view of the further incident with a C Series / Airbus A220 engine, SWISS has decided to conduct engine inspections for its entire C Series / A220 fleet. This means that all SWISS C Series / A220 aircraft will undergo an extensive examination from midday today (15.10) onwards. Only following a faultless inspection will these aircraft be returned to regular flight duties. This will put substantial restrictions on SWISS’s flight operations, as numerous flights will have to be cancelled.

SWISS takes these incidents very seriously, and is in close dialogue with the relevant authorities, with Airbus Canada and with the engines’ manufacturer (Pratt & Whitney). The safety of our customers and our crews is our paramount priority. We will do everything we can to return the operation of our C Series fleet to normal as soon as possible and continue to ensure safe flight operations.

We deeply regret the inconvenience to the customers affected. All the travellers concerned will be proactively informed of these developments, provided they gave SWISS their contact details when they booked their flight. They will also be rebooked at SWISS’s expense onto the best possible alternative. Passengers with bookings for any of these cancelled flights may also rebook free of charge or have their ticket price refunded.

Our Customer Service unit can be contacted on 0848 700 700 at any time for assistance and advice. We will provide further information as soon as available.”

On the same evening of the 15th October 2019 at 21:00, SWISS International Airlines have released an update about the situation. A spoke-person told us:

“As announced, the inspections led to a noticeable reduction in SWISS flight operations. Around 100 flights with some 10,000 affected passengers had to be cancelled. The first C Series/A220 have already returned to service after a comprehensive engine inspection in perfect condition. Based on the current planning the flight operations can be resumed on Thursday in a largely regular manner.

SWISS A220-100 over the alps
Picture by SWISS International Airlines AG

SWISS takes these incidents very seriously and continues to maintain close contact with the responsible authorities, Airbus Canada and the engine manufacturer (Pratt & Whitney). The safety of our customers and crews is our top priority. We very much regret the inconveniences for our passengers. SWISS will actively inform affected passengers if contact details were provided at the time of booking. They will be rebooked to the best possible alternative at SWISS’s expense. In addition, tickets of passengers who were/are booked on a cancelled flight can be rebooked or refunded free of charge. For questions and assistance, our Customer Service is still available to our passengers at any time on 0848 700 700. Up-to-date information can also be found at www.swiss.com

We are glad the aircrafts are slowing getting back into service! This will reduce the impacts on passengers, good news for everyone!

A220 Engine issues:

Today’s incident is already the third incident within 40 days involving this aircraft type that the airline, member of the Lufthansa Group, has been experiencing. The first issue was back on September 8th 2019, where the crew of flight LX1279 had to shut-down the left-hand PW1524 engine following some low oil pressure. The A223 with the registration HB-JCJ performed then a landing on the longest runway, runway 16 of Zurich Airport. The aircraft was then inspected by emergency services and continued towards the gate.

SWISS A220-300, HB-JCA
Picture by YourAviation LLC, Thierry Weber

The second incident was back on September 16th 2019, only a few days later prior the first one. Flight LX358 operated on an A220-300 with the registration HB-JCA, experienced renewed engine issues. The crew stopped the climbing towards London Heathrow (LHR) and landed back safely in Geneva, around 22 minutes after stopping the climb. The engine was then inspected by the maintenance and a few days later, on September 19th, the FAA issued the following Airworthiness Directive:

The FAA released an Air Worthiness Directive 2019-19-11 requiring following actions on Pratt & Whitney Models PW1519G, PW1521G, PW1521GA, PW1524G, PW1525G, PW1521G-3, PW1524G-3, PW1525G-3, PW1919G, PW1921G, PW1922G, PW1923G, and PW1923G-A turbofan engines that have accumulated fewer than 300 flight cycles:

(1) Within 50 flight cycles from the effective date of this AD, and thereafter at intervals not to exceed 50 flight cycles until the engine accumulates 300 flight cycles, borescope inspect each LPC inlet guide vane (IGV) stem for proper alignment.

(2) Within 50 flight cycles from the effective date of this AD, and thereafter at intervals not to exceed 50 flight cycles until the engine accumulates 300 flight cycles, borescope inspect the LPC R1 for damage and cracks at the following locations:

(i) The blades tips;
(ii) the leading edge;
(iii) the leading edge fillet to rotor platform radius; and
(iv) the airfoil convex side root fillet to rotor platform radius.
(3) As the result of the inspections required by paragraphs (g)(1) and (2) of this AD, before further flight, remove and replace the LPC if:
(i) An IGV is misaligned; or
(ii) there is damage on an LPC R1 that exceeds serviceable limits; or
(iii) there is any crack in the LPC R1.

The FAA argued the AD is necessary:

The FAA received reports of two recent IFSDs on PW PW1524G-3 model turbofan engines. The first IFSD occurred on July 25, 2019 and the second IFSD occurred on September 16, 2019. These IFSDs were due to failure of the LPC R1, which resulted in the LPC R1 releasing from the LPC case and damaging the engine. LPC rotor failures historically have released high-energy debris that has resulted in damage to engines and airplanes (see Advisory Circular (AC) 39-8, “Continued Airworthiness Assessments of Powerplant and Auxiliary Power Unit Installations of Transport Category Airplanes,” dated September 8, 2003, available at rgl.faa.gov). Although these IFSDs occurred on PW PW1524G-3 model turbofan engines, the FAA is including PW PW1900 engines in the applicability of the AD because similarities in type design make these engines susceptible to the same unsafe condition as PW PW1500 engines. This condition, if not addressed, could result in uncontained release of the LPC R1, in-flight shutdown, damage to the engine, damage to the airplane, and loss of control of the airplane. The FAA is issuing this AD to address the unsafe condition on these products.

Today’s issue on flight LX359 was obviously another engine related problem. The decision of grounding the entire A220 fleet is surely hard for the company and people can expect many flights to be delayed and cancelled on the next few days, but it’s the right decision. In Aviation it’s always: SAFETY FIRST, and therefore we welcome the decision of the airline.


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