NEW DELHI :
India will follow a prudent approach in lifting a ban on commercial flights of Boeing Co.’s 737 MAX planes, the country’s civil aviation regulator said on Thursday.
“The Boeing 737 MAX aircraft has done more than 800 hours of test flight (since its grounding earlier this year)," Arun Kumar, director general of civil aviation (DGCA) said. Boeing is expected to approach US civil aviation regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), for re-certification of the planes by October, he said.
The 737 MAX, considered a more fuel-efficient plane than its predecessor, was grounded by the DGCA on 13 March after aviation regulators worldwide grounded the plane following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX near Addis Ababa on 10 March, killing 157 people, including four Indians. Last October, a Boeing 737 MAX of Lion Air crashed, killing 180 people in Indonesia.
“DGCA will be conservative and wait and watch, before taking any decision (on Boeing 737 MAX)," Kumar said. The suffering of Indian carriers because of the grounding of the planes has been limited as local airlines operate only a dozen such planes compared with about 400 used by airlines worldwide.
SpiceJet Ltd, one of the world’s biggest customers for the 737 MAX 8, has orders for 155 aircraft with purchase rights for 50 additional 737 MAX 8 and wide-body planes. The airline has taken delivery of 12 Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes so far, which are at present grounded.
Jet Airways (India) Ltd, had taken delivery of five Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. However, the airline has been grounded since April because of a fund crunch. Those planes have since been taken back by the leasing companies.
“There is, however, still some way to go," Kumar said when asked for a timeframe for re-inducting the 737 MAX.
While Boeing has informed SpiceJet that deliveries of the remaining Boeing 737 MAX planes will resume from October-December 2019, the Chicago-headquartered company has to accomplish various tasks to rectify the plane.
Boeing has been reprogramming software for a stall-prevention system, considered as the reason for both crashes, which the FAA must approve before the plane flies again commercially.
The FAA last week said that it would invite 737 MAX pilots from across the world to participate in simulator tests as part of the process to rectify the aircraft for flights, Reuters reported. Boeing has told suppliers it planned to ramp 737 MAX production by February, the report said.