India grounds all Boeing 737 Max aircraft
13 March 2019
The Director General of Civil aviation (DGCA) has issued fresh directive to domestic airlines to halt flight operations of Boeing B737 Max aircraft, following the crash of the Ethiopian Airline B737 Max 8 aircraft ET-AVJ, soon after take-off on 10 March.
India's aviation watchdog’s decision to immediately ground the Boeing 737 Max aircraft comes after an Ethiopian Airline crash killed 157 people, including four Indians.
All Boeing 737 max planes will stay grounded till appropriate modifications and safety measures are undertaken to ensure their safe operations, the civil aviation ministry said late on Tuesday.
The DGCA had, on Monday, prescribed deployment of experienced pilots for operating B737 Max aircraft and ensure the crew have undergone training as advised in the directive issued by DGCA dated 3 December 2018.
The Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, while on a flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi. This is the second fatal accident to B-737 Max aircraft within a span of five months.
At present, two Indian carriers, SpiceJet (12 aircraft) and Jet Airways (5 aircraft) have these aircraft in their fleet. The DGCA on Tuesday reviewed the issue along with the Indian operators covering all reported snags/ defects of significant nature along with rectification action(s) taken on these aircraft.
SpiceJet tried to defend the new model of the US aircraft manufacturer's best-selling 737, saying, "The Boeing 737 MAX is a highly sophisticated aircraft."
However, following the DGCA directive, SpiceJet too will have to immediately ground the 12-13 B737 Max. The five Max of Jet Airways, however, remain grounded for other reasons. These were grounded even before the Ethiopian Airline’s crash on Sunday.
The DGCA also reviewed compliance of an earlier advisory issued after the Lion Air accident on 3 December 2018. During the review, it was observed that the ‘daily defect’ and ‘daily incident’ reports contained defects of routine nature and no significant concern were observed.
However, in view of the Ethiopian Air accident of 10 March 2019 and based on the discussion held, DGCA prescribed additional actions and compliance of all Boeing SOPs, FAA emergency advisory and Boeing operations circulars for B737-8 Max operations.
DGCA said the measures have been communicated to Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for suggesting any additional measures/ advice.
A large number of countries and standalone airlines have grounded the B737 Max, with places like Singapore and Australia even banning overflying of the B737 Max over their airspace.
SilkAir, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines (SIA), used to operate its Max to Hyderabad and Bangalore. “SilkAir will be flying the Boeing 737 NG (new generation) to Hyderabad and Bangalore instead of the Boeing 737 Max,” said an SIA spokesperson. Singapore’s aviation authority has suspended “all variants of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into and out of Singapore.
Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority temporarily suspended airlines from flying B737 MAX jets to or from Australia. China and Indonesia had done so soon after Sunday’s crash of an Ethiopian B737 Max that killed all 157 on board.
Aerolíneas Argentinas is grounding its five Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes and so are Ethiopian Airlines, Aeromexico, Cayman Airways and South Africa’s Comair and South Korea's Eastar Jet.
“It is about a snag in the aircraft, its operating system. It is not something that can be taken care of by simply asking for experienced pilots to fly the plane. That decision of DGCA made no sense,” said a senior pilot of the B737 Max who said a new operating system almost gives the Max “a mind of its own after which the pilots can do nothing.”
“As a precautionary measure UK has decided to stop any Boeing 737 MAX commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying UK airspace,” the UK Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement.
“Safety comes first. Until all doubts have been cleared up, I have ordered that German airspace be closed to all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft with immediate effect,” Reuters quoted transport minister Andreas Scheuerhe was quoted as saying.
France’s civil aviation authority DGAC also said it was banning Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from French airspace.
Norwegian Airlines, which operates 18 such planes, will keep them grounded pending advice from aviation authorities, AFP quoted operations chief Tomas Hesthammer as saying. South Korea, meanwhile, ordered the only airline in the country that deploys the jets to suspend operations of its two Boeing MAX 8s.
With this nearly 40 per cent of the in-service fleet of 371 Boeing 737 MAX jets is grounded, according to industry publication Flightglobal. That includes 97 jets in biggest market China.
While most countries banned their carriers from operating the Boeing737 Max 8, the US carriers, however, said they are not cancelling MAX 8 flights, in a show of confidence in the manufacturer.
Reports citing Boeing officials said the 737 MAX 8 was "as safe as any airplane that has ever flown the skies."
US regulators on Monday ordered Boeing to make urgent improvements to the best-selling jet, but ruled out grounding before investigation into the crash of the Ethiopian aircraft concluded.