When the B737 Max was grounded in March 2019, SpiceJet had taken delivery of 13 of these planes. Jet Airways had five Max in India but those planes were not being used for a long time as the airline — which got grounded last April — had not been able to pay their lease rentals.
As of now financially frail SpiceJet is the only Indian carrier that has about 200 more B737 Max on order. Whether Jet Airways flies again and if the new owners select this aircraft for operations remains to be seen.
“We will study (the FAA approval order) and (then) react. It will take sometime,” a senior DGCA official said when asked about India’s nod to the plane to fly again. Aviation regulators of different countries, including India, will need to allow this aircraft to fly again before airlines of those countries can begin operating the same after carrying out the required modifications in each Max and pilot training.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Stan Deal said: “The FAA’s directive is an important milestone. We will continue to work with regulators around the world and our customers to return the airplane back into service worldwide.
The planes were grounded after an Indonesian carrier Lion Air flight crash in October 2018 and then an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash last March. Faulty software and design of this aircraft were identified as the main reasons for these two crashes in which 346 people lost their lives.
After the FAA rescinded its order halting commercial operations of B737-8s and 737-9s, Boeing in a statement said: “The move will allow airlines that are under the FAA’s jurisdiction including those in the US to take the steps necessary to resume service and Boeing to begin making deliveries…. An airworthiness directive issued by FAA spells out the requirements that must be met before US carriers can resume service including: installing software enhancements, completing wire separation modifications, conducting pilot training and accomplishing thorough de-preservation activities that will ensure the airplanes are ready for service.”
Boeing has been making preparations in countries where airlines have the Max on order during the last 20 months. It set up a simulator for B737 Max pilot training in Noida, near Delhi, this June as pilot training on a Max-specific sim is mandatory before they can fly the aircraft again post the required modifications.
Since regular commercial flights are suspended in India since March-end, it flew in a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) from Canada with experts of CAE, a leading company for aviation training, this June to install and make operational the B737 Max simulator at Noida.
After Wednesday’s FAA nod, Boeing CEO David Calhoun said: “We will never forget the lives lost in the two tragic accidents that led to the decision to suspend operations. These events and the lessons we have learned as a result have reshaped our company and further focused our attention on our core values of safety, quality and integrity.”