The Boeing 737 MAX aircraft was grounded globally, including in India, in March 2019 after two fatal crashes on the aircraft type. Over 20 months, the airframe manufacturer worked to make fixes to the aircraft to be certified again by regulators around the globe. The plane was subsequently ungrounded by the US regulator, the FAA, after over 600 days of grounding. This was the first regulator to unground the plane, and since then, Boeing has been working to receive approval around the globe. Many regulators worldwide have since approved the 737 MAX, including the EASA for Europe and UAE as well. India and China were the last two significant markets holding up the return to service of the MAX. Just recently, Boeing flew a 737 MAX aircraft to China for proving flights earlier in August 2021. However, the DGCA 737 MAX approval was still awaited.
DGCA India ungrounds the Boeing 737 MAX
The DGCA of India, in April 2021, had partly lifted their earlier orders concerning the Boeing 737 MAX. In April 2021, the Indian regulator allowed foreign-registered 737 MAX aircraft to overfly Indian airspace and allow for operational readiness flights and ferry flights out of India (again for aircraft registered outside India).
However, India was holding out on approval for the Boeing 737 MAX, which has come through today. The DGCA of India, which is the aviation regulator of India, has on August 26, 2021, approved the return to service of the Boeing 737-8 and Boeing 737-9 aircraft.
The order issued by the DGCA stated,
Post issuance of AD by FAA/ EASA and rescinding of the grounding order by FAA, DGCA has been closely monitoring the global trend with regard to un-grounding of Boeing Company Model 737-8 and Boeing Company Model 737-9 airplanes.
World-wide 17 regulators have permitted operation of Boeing 737 Max airplane. A sizeable number airlines (34) with B737 Max airplane (345) are operating currently and have attained 1,22,824 total departures with 2,89,537 cumulative hours since the un-grounding from 9th December 2020, with no untoward reporting.
Boeing has also met other requirements put out by India for clearance of the aircraft, including the installation of a 737 MAX simulator in India.
What does it mean?
Does the ungrounding of the 737 MAX mean airlines will start to fly with the aircraft tomorrow? No. Not really. Software updates need to be first made to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was established as the primary cause of the two 737 MAX crashes. However, new 737 MAX aircraft can be delivered to airlines in India now. Pilots will also need to undergo additional simulator training before flying the 737 MAX aircraft again.
SpiceJet is the only Indian carrier that has the Boeing 737 MAX in its fleet, with an order of 205 aircraft and 13 737 MAX aircraft delivered. SpiceJet also reached a ‘settlement agreement’ with Avalon earlier during the day, which might have been the company leasing the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to Spicejet.
Will people fly the MAX?
Yes, of course. The fear about the MAX should have subsided by now, for one. Secondly, in India, most people purchase their tickets basis the price and perhaps convenience, and hence, the aircraft type is not important to them. Also, Boeing refers to the aircraft now as Boeing 737-8 and Boeing 737-9, so they are trying to put the MAX terminology behind them.
The DGCA has today issued an order clearing the 737 MAX to be operated in India. These planes will need a software update, and pilots will need to be trained on the aircraft (unless already trained). With that, we could see the 737 MAX aircraft in the Indian skies in a few weeks.
Are you ready to fly the Boeing 737 MAX again?
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