Boeing 737-MAX
Boeing 737-MAXFile Photo: Boeing

India allows restart of Boeing 737 Max operations

New Delhi, August 27, 2021

India on Thursday allowed the restart of Boeing 737 Max operations in the country, rescinding earlier orders that had grounded the aircraft after two fatal accidents involving the planes in Ethiopia in March 2019 and Indonesia in October 2018.

The Directorate General Civil Aviation (DGCA) had ordered the grounding of the aircraft on March 13, 2019, joining countries worldwide which had also prohibited the operations of the B737 Max after the two crashes because of safety concerns.

As many as 157 people were killed in the crash in Ethiopia on March 10, 2019, just minutes into the flight. It was the second such incident in five months. In October 2018, a Boeing 737 Max 8 of the Indonesian low-cost airline Lion Air had crashed into the Java Sea, killing 189 people and on that occasion the black box had revealed failures in the aircraft's automated systems.

"This rescission enables operation of Boeing Company Model 737-8 and Boeing Company Model 737-9 airplanes only upon satisfaction of applicable requirements for return to service," yesterday's order from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said.

Following the two accidents involving Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, the DGCA had, in the interests of safety, disallowed the operations of B737-8 and B-737-9 aircraft from and to Indian airports, including transit flights, with effect from March 13, 2019. They were not allowed to enter Indian airspace also.

The decision to rescind the order came after design changes by Boeing, following which the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) on November 18, 2020, mandating actions for 737 Max airplanes to return to service (RTS). Concurrently, FAA also rescinded the Emergency Order fo Prohibition. Subsequently, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) also issued its own AD on February 17 this year, which has been mandated by DGCA for compliance on Indian registered fleet.

On April 20, 2021, DGCA superseded the B737 Max grounding order of March 13, 2019 with a revised order allowing foreign registered B737 Max aircraft, which were grounded in Inndia due to the earlier order, to conduct operational readiness flight and ferry fly out of India. Overflying of foreign registered B 737 Max aircraft over Indian airspace was also allowed.

The DGCA said it had been closely monitoring the global trend with regard to ungrounding of B737-8 and B737-9 airplanes. It noted that, worldwide, 17 regulators had permitted operation of the aircraft. As many as 34 airlines are operating 345 of these aircraft currently and have attained a total of 1,22,824 departures with 2,89,537 cumulative hours since the ungrounding from December 9, 202, with no untoward incident.

In India, only low-cost carrier SpiceJet has 13 737-Max in its fleet. The airline said on Thursday that it had entered into a settlement with Avolon, a major lessor of Max aircraft, paving the way for the airline’s 737 Max aircraft to start to return to service.

"The airline expects to start operations of MAX aircraft around the end of September 2021, subject to regulatory approvals," it said.

Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, SpiceJet, said, “I am delighted to share that our 737 Maxs will be back in the air soon. As India emerges from Covid and air traffic picks up again, the Max aircraft will play a major role in our future expansion. With a better and a more efficient fleet back in operation we expect a significant reduction in our operating costs improving our bottom line.”


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