The Indian aviation market largely uses the Airbus A320 family aircraft, with GoFirst, IndiGo, Air India and Vistara all of them aligned with Airbus narrowbody aircraft (Vistara has a few Boeing 737 aircraft but these are on their way out). The Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which was the updated version of the 737 NG with new engines was grounded across the globe, including in India, after two incidents with the aircraft caused huge loss of life.
The Boeing 737 MAX was certified for return to service towards the end of 2020 by the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), the home regulator of Boeing. Since then, it was recertified in many other parts of the world, and also in India in September 2021. However, we did not see SpiceJet, which was the only existing customer of the aircraft (Jet Airways folded up), till last week, when they announced that they have reached a settlement with Boeing over the grounded aircraft.
SpiceJet settles with Boeing over 737 MAX Grounding
As per a compliance filing by SpiceJet on November 17, 2021, SpiceJet announced that it has entered into a settlement agreement with Boeing wherein “Boeing has agreed to provide certain accommodations and settle the outstanding claims related to the grounding of 737 MAX aircraft and its return to service.” The settlement is confidential, as is usually the case so we will never get to know if SpiceJet ever received the over INR 1200 Crores (USD 161 million) that it has accrued on its financial statements over the years as due from Boeing or not (for the grounded aircraft). You can read the settlement notice here.
SpiceJet 737 MAX takes to the air
Almost immediately after the settlement came through, SpiceJet started work towards the depreservation of their 737 MAX aircraft. Depreservation of an aircraft is not just about removing the engine covers, but also, the aircraft needs to do some engine runs before taking to the skies. In the case of this specific depreservation, each aircraft will also need to be applied a software upgrade, and pilots will need to undergo a refresher computer-based training and simulator time to be prepared for the MAX.
Along with the DGCA officials on board, SpiceJet conducted a test flight on Friday, November 19, 2021 of one of their 737 MAX aircraft.
Since then, SpiceJet has depreserved another 737 MAX aircraft as well (VT-MXG) and both these aircraft are now operating commercial flights from Delhi and other airports.
SpiceJet also conducted a press conference in Delhi on November 23, 2021 to announce the return of their 737 MAX aircraft in the air.
On the occassion, SpiceJet announced that all thirteen of the currently delivered MAX aircraft will be brought back to operations soon. Also, SpiceJet intends to start inducting up to 50 out of their 155 MAX aircraft order in the coming days, and will use a part of that order to return older 737 NG aircraft to lessors.
The new aircraft will also be good news for passengers, who will find new, cleaner seats on the aircraft, and overall a much better passenger experience.
Not just that, SpiceJet has announced that internet services on these aircraft will be activated by December 2021, and then, customers will be able to use the Internet for free for the time being.
SpiceJet celebrated the return to service of the 737MAX with a one-time special flight from New Delhi to Gwalior with Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya M. Scindia, SpiceJet CMD Ajay Singh and President, Boeing India, Salil Gupte.
On the occassion, Boeing India issued the following statement,
We continue to remain focused on supporting SpiceJet in their operations to safely return the 737 MAX to service in India as outlined by DGCA. Today, more than 175 out of 195 global regulators have opened their airspace to the 737 MAX. Over 30 airlines have returned their fleets to service and those airlines have safely flown over 235,000 commercial flights, totaling more than 575,000 flight hours. The fleet has a schedule reliability rate of more than 99%.
Going forward, you will also be able to fly the 737 MAX in India on Akasa Air who recently ordered these aircraft at the Dubai Airshow 2021.
The Boeing 737 MAX is back in the Indian skies, with SpiceJet becoming the first operator of these aircraft in India after the ungrounding. You should very soon frequently see these aircraft at more airports in the Indian skies.
What do you think of the resumption of the SpiceJet Boeing 737 MAX operations?
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