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‘Boeing 737 Max can fly over Indian airspace’

Forum Gandhi Mumbai | Updated on April 21, 2021

But restriction on flying to and from India continues

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has allowed Boeing to fly its 737 Max over the Indian airspace. However, the ban on flying the aircraft to and from Indian airports continues.

The order makes certain exceptions to the previous order of March 13, 2019 banning all operations of B737 Max from Indian airports following two fatal crashes involving the aircraft globally.

Boeing has started seeking permissions from respective authorities globally to recertify its B737 Max.

DGCA not convinced

The aircraft returned to service at the end of 2020, after FAA approval in November, and subsequently received EASA approval in January 2021. Certification from the two major regulators cleared the way for deliveries to resume in earnest and bump up Boeing’s sales figures. However, it looks like the DGCA is still not convinced. Foreign registered Boeing 737Max planes will also be permitted in the Indian airspace provided the aircraft have been given due permission by the respective regulatory authorities

Also read: Boeing finds electrical issue in new areas of max cockpit

About a fortnight ago, Fly Dubai had started flying B737 Maxes, and the DGCA had rejected its permission to be flown to and from India.

According to industry experts, Indian authorities are making sure the aircraft is safe to travel. "The 737Max along with Boeing will need to win back credibility and confidence with airlines, the regulator, pilots, flight attendants and engineers, and most importantly, the travelling public. US Congressional investigations into Boeing and the 737 Max has revealed Boeing belittling India and the DGCA. So it would clearly have to do a lot more for India to budge,” said Mark D Martin, Founder & CEO, Martin Consulting.

Opportunity for SpiceJet

Industry experts said that this could be a strategic opportunity for SpiceJet. The current fleet utilisation is very low due to Covid, and they are not looking at getting the Maxes anytime soon since the international market isn’t likely to pick up till the next year. SpiceJet and Boeing have been trying to resolve the impasse for a long time with no resolution yet.

This, according to Rohit Tomar, managing partner, Caladrius Aero consulting, will help them to negotiate the compensation as they are not ready to keep the 737 Maxes. “They have other aircraft. Spice is trying to extract as much as possible. The fact that currently, it cannot use it, and it can negotiate the compensation is a good thing for the airline.”

In its order, the DGCA has also stated that those aircraft that are being readied for return to service and belonging to the lessors, too, have been exempted and can be flown away from India.

SpiceJet is currently debt-strapped. BusinessLine had reported that lessors DAE and BBAM had issued grounding notices to the airline.

Koushik Jagathalaprathaban, an independent consultant with aviation consulting firm, AT-TV, said that even if lessors were to fly the Maxes away it would reduce the exposure to SpiceJet. “In an indirect way it could reduce SpiceJet’s liability.”

The DGCA has not said no to the Max yet, it has just modified the earlier order allowing movement of the Max. This could be the first step for approvals, he added.

Even if the Maxes were to return to the Indian skies, “it would make SpiceJet the biggest benefactor from it; and with recent lessor orders for grounding SpiceJet operated aircraft, resumption of the Max should help SpiceJet compensate for revenue losses.” Martin explained.

Published on April 20, 2021

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