Mumbai: 2 years on, DGCA yet to decide on resuming Boeing 737 MAX ops

Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) remains undecided on resuming Boeing 737 MAX operations as the latest single aisle aircraft completes two years of grounding in the country, following a global ban in March 2019. The aircraft has resumed flying in the United States and United Kingdom and other countries.
Boeing 737 Max aircraft were grounded two years ago after several accidents involving the aircraft. (HT FILE)
Boeing 737 Max aircraft were grounded two years ago after several accidents involving the aircraft. (HT FILE)
Published on Mar 13, 2021 12:33 AM IST
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ByNeha LM Tripathi, Mumbai

Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) remains undecided on resuming Boeing 737 MAX operations as the latest single aisle aircraft completes two years of grounding in the country, following a global ban in March 2019. The aircraft has resumed flying in the United States and United Kingdom among others.

“We continue to work closely with DGCA, other global regulators and our customers to safely return the 737-8 and 737-9 to service worldwide. We continue to make progress on returning 737 MAX to service. In all, more than 160 out of 195 global regulators have opened their airspace for MAX. As of March 9, 14 airlines have safely returned the airplane to service, and have safely flown more than 9,000 revenue flights for nearly 20,000 flight hours,” Boeing spokesperson said.

Boeing 737 MAX was involved in an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash on March 10, 2019 wherein more than 180 passengers and crew members died. A flight of Lion Air, an Indonesian low-cost carrier, had also crashed in October 2018, leading to suspicion over design faults in the aircraft model. After these accidents, DGCA had issued a statement in March 2019 saying that no 737 MAX aircraft would be allowed to enter or transit in Indian airspace.

US aviation regulator Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), however, approved Boeing 737 MAX to fly in November 2020. The airworthiness directive (AD) issued by FAA mentioned the requirements that must be met by airlines operating Boeing 737 MAX planes. These included installing software enhancements, completing wire separation modifications, conducting pilot training, and ensuring that the airplanes are ready for service.

After the FAA’s allowance, Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency followed the suit. Europe’s civil aviation agency European Aviation Safety Agency, UK’s Civil Aviation Authority and Canada’s Transport Canada Civil Aviation also followed suit.

However, Arun Kumar, director general of DGCA, said, “We have not decided on this (allowing Boeing 737 MAX) and so it is expected to take time. We are, however, keeping a watch on the situation and shall take appropriate call when required.”

GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes, a low-cost airline in Brazil, was the first to operate 737 MAX worldwide. Mexican flag carrier Aeromexico was the second, followed by American Airlines.

While DGCA had taken part in Boeing’s proposal for training pilots to fly the revamped 737 MAX in September last year, it has not taken a decision to allow MAX operations. In India, budget carrier SpiceJet is the only airline having 13 such aircraft in its fleet.

Despite repeated attempts, SpiceJet did not comment on the status of modifications in their aircraft.

Mohan Ranganathan, aviation safety consultant and former instructor pilot of Boeing 737, said, “These aircraft have been grounded for the past two years. Not just the engines, but every other part of the aircraft is going to be affected because they are parked. Their batteries and hydraulic systems need to be checked, which simply implies that these aircraft require extensive maintenance to bring them back to flying condition.”

He added, “We cannot have inspectors with no experience on MAX for judging the performance and efficiency of a pilot who is undergoing checks. Even if the aircraft operator (Boeing) has come up with a simulator for training purposes, flight operation inspectors in DGCA are not MAX-qualified. If our regulator has people who are not expert on this aircraft type, then the training or checking is only a mockery. DGCA is probably worried about the repercussions and hence is taking time to restart MAX operations in India.”

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Thursday, December 02, 2021