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Indian skies remain cloudy

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2020 Published on March 12, 2020

A passenger safety instruction card of Jet Airways Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane is pictured during its induction ceremony at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport in Mumbai (file photo)   -  REUTERS

DGCA will take a call only after global regulators such as FAA and EASA make their stand clear

With losses mounting and its image severely battered, Boeing is trying its best to get the grounded MAX off the ground. But when the aircraft starts flying again depends on individual regulators such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in India.

However, when this process is likely to start is anyone’s guess.

The first step in getting the American-made aircraft to fly again will be FAA certifying its airworthiness. After which, the DGCA will come into the picture, to certify the aircraft which is part of SpiceJet’s fleet. The Indian carrier had 13 aircraft flying when the MAX was grounded globally.

At the moment, it is the only Indian carrier with the MAX . The second Indian airline to order the MAX was Jet Airways, which temporarily suspended its operations in April 2019.

Former DGCA officials told BusinessLine that India will have to examine whether it wants to accept the changes made by global regulators before taking a call on whether to allow SpiceJet to start operating the MAX again.

“This should not be a very time-consuming process as India has aligned its rules with that of global aviation regulators like the FAA and EASA,” a former official said. After this process is over, it is likely to take 30-45 days for the first set of Indian pilots to be ready to operate the MAX that SpiceJet has.

‘Psychological boost’

Frost & Sullivan’s Nripendra Bahadur Singh, Industry Principal - Aerospace, Defence & Security Practice, feels that a safety assurance by an internationally recognised body such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Civil Aviation Authority of the UK or EASA for this variety of aircraft, will give a psychological boost to air passengers.

However, the Indian regulator will not be among the first to allow the MAX to fly again. In August 2019, Indian officials had said that they will take a “conservative view” of allowing Boeing 737 MAX to fly again in Indian skies.

Sources indicate that what can hasten the process is that during the entire year that the aircraft has been grounded, airlines have been carrying out passive tests. “Airlines have been switching on the engines of the MAX and keeping them running every seventh and 15th day,” an official said, adding that this helps carry out engine run-up and check functionality of various systems.

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Published on March 12, 2020
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