The 737 MAX aircraft were grounded earlier this year following a directive by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Aircraft manufacturer Boeing hopes its 737 MAX will return to service by December. The company has indicated the same to its customers, including Indian low-cost carrier SpiceJet, sources said. However, their plans are dependent on airworthiness approvals from regulators.
“Our best current estimate is a return to service of the MAX that begins early in the fourth quarter (of the calendar year). Our focus is on safety and ensuring the trust and confidence of customers, regulators and the flying public. Timing of return to service will be driven by the Federal Aviation Administration and global regulators,” said Boeing in an email response to FE.
The 737 MAX aircraft were grounded earlier this year following a directive by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In March, the FAA decided to ground the 737 MAX, days after an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed soon after take-off. In October 2018, a 737 MAX aircraft operated by Lion Air was also involved in a crash. The two accidents reportedly killed 346 people. Following the plane crashes, the FAA set up a panel in April to review the certification of the aircraft.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is awaiting the airworthiness directive from FAA before letting Indian carriers to operate the 737 MAX, a person with knowledge of the matter said.
“We are fairly conservative on allowing the 737 MAX flying in the Indian airspace because of the serious safety concerns. Following FAA certification, DGCA will conduct stringent flight tests allowing the aircraft to fly. It will take time, and we will take cues from other countries as well. We have also asked Boeing to retrain all pilots flying the aircraft,” a senior government official told FE.
“Without an FAA certification, there is no question of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft being operated. The DGCA also wants to ensure that pilots are trained before operating the plane, and Boeing is yet to get back to the directorate on this,” the source said.
Boeing is working with global regulators to determine training requirements in their home market, the company said. The FAA in June had said it found “potential risk that Boeing must mitigate” and that it is developing necessary training requirements for the 737 MAX. The review panel is expected to report its findings on the aircraft in few weeks.
SpiceJet, which grounded 13 737 MAX aircraft earlier this year, was significantly hit by the grounding of the aircraft. In the quarter ended June, the company said that it incurred Rs 114 crore towards aircraft and supplemental lease rentals on account of the grounded planes. The budget carrier has added 32 aircraft to counter revenue losses due to the grounded planes and is in the process of seeking reimbursements from Boeing. SpiceJet did not respond to FE’s queries till the time of going to press.