LOS ANGELES - An apparent bird strike on Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-powered A320neo MSN6101 will not impact the timing of the overall certification program, nor delay the entry-into-service set for year-end, Airbus says.

A spectacular image of the event, which occurred on April 30, shows fire emitting from the core exhaust of the right-hand engine. Although details of the incident have not yet been issued, the position of the aircraft’s flaps and transitioning main gear covers appear to indicate the A320neo was climbing out when the bird strike occurred. An Airbus spokesman says, “this type of occurrence (i.e. flames) sometimes does happen during testing at high-power levels.” Given preliminary information, the event “will not have any effect on the program,” he adds.

The incident comes as test-hours of the PW1100G-powered A320neo begin to ramp-up significantly, following the addition of a second Pratt aircraft into the certification program at the end of March. Speaking earlier in April about progress on the test effort to date, Pratt & Whitney Commercial Engines President Greg Gernhardt said, “we have normal issues but the nice thing about flight test is we do have field reps there, and so we are treating the flight-test program as if it was in service.” Component replacement is therefore mostly processed using the standard support system of repair manuals and spare-parts distribution.

Overall, Gernhardt says “the neo program is going well. We have two aircraft flying and the first two production engines in assembly and on, and maybe a bit ahead of, schedule. So we are comfortable in terms of maintaining schedule. We don’t provide engines for the third aircraft, which is an A321neo, until later in the year—but that is still to the schedule that they (Airbus) need them.”

The first ship set of production-standard engines, numbers 114 and 115, are due to be delivered to Airbus in Toulouse, France around midyear. In addition, Pratt has a further set of compliance engines being used for service ready and endurance (SRE) tests. “We have taken a number of production engines out of the system,” Gerhnardt says. “The beauty of the ramp up is there are so many parts in the system that water-falling is easy. We’ve pulled two engines out and we are using them for SRE, including one at the full propulsion-system level in partnership with Airbus.

A second engine will be tested at “an undisclosed” hot and high evaluation location. This engine will incorporate a “rainbow wheel” of alternate cooling systems, and coating on the turbine. “We are taking a third of the bill of material and we are putting different cooling patterns and coatings in the combustor and turbine section to see which ones perform the best. We are already focusing on maturity at entry-into-service,” he adds.