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India looking for cue from US regulator on grounding Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft

FE Bureau
boeing, jet airways, spicejet, aviation sector, aviation industry

While as many as 12 countries have so far grounded Boeing 737 Max aircraft after one such plane belonging to Ethiopian Airlines crashed on Sunday leading to concerns about passenger safety, the Indian aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, seems to be in a wait-and-watch mode.

Though it tightened certain norms on Monday, it is still discussing the matter with the regulators of other countries and waiting for the cue from the US Federal Aviation Administration.

In India, SpiceJet and Jet Airways fly Boeing 737 Max but at the moment the five aircraft of Jet is grounded due to non-payment issues. SpiceJet has 12 such aircraft which are flying.

After the Sunday crash, the DGCA has said that a pilot flying a Boeing 737 Max must have at least 1,000 hours of flying experience on such aircraft while the co-pilot must have at least 500 hours of experience. It has also sought more stringent checks on the equipment on board these aircraft.

The nonchalant approach with which the DGCA circular has been drafted doesn t make much sense when there have been two catastrophic incidents in the past six months. It will create amongst fliers considering countries like Singapore, Indonesia and Australia have restricted the flying of the Max aircraft. A firm decision is needed on the aircraft when the Max will amongst the largest fleet of our airlines, Mark Martin, founder, Martin Consulting pointed out.

DGCA had earlier also tightened norms for these aircraft when a Boeing 737 Max belonging to Indonesia s Lion Air crashed in October last year.

Then it had asked the airlines to train pilots on simulators that replicate the Lion Air crash scenario and also asked airlines to ground planes and inspect them thoroughly in case any defect was noticed.

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Meanwhile, SpiceJet on Tuesday said it has put in place all the additional precautionary measures issued by DGCA. It said it is actively engaged with the DGCA and the aircraft manufacturer on the issue. However, it did not say anything on whether it is also looking to ground its Max fleet.

SpiceJet and Jet Airways have ordered 155 and 225 Boeing 737 Max jetliners, respectively, which are slated to be delivered over the next decade.