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Wed 13 Mar 2019 08:52 AM

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India grounds Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

Indian carrier SpiceJet operates 12 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

India grounds Boeing 737 MAX aircraft
SpiceJet uses B737 Max planes to operate to Hong Kong from a couple of Indian cities, besides in several routes within India.

India has directed its airlines to immediately ground all Boeing 737 Max aircraft in a late night decision on Tuesday, joining 15 other countries which have taken similar decisions in the immediate aftermath of the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight on Sunday. 

“DGCA has taken the decision to ground the Boeing 737 MAX planes immediately. These planes will be grounded till appropriate modifications ad safety measures are undertaken to ensure their safe operations,” India’s civil aviation ministry said in a late night tweet.

“As always, passenger safety remains our top priority. We continue to consult closely with regulators around the world, airlines, and aircraft manufacturers to ensure passenger safety,” the aviation ministry tweet added.

DGCA is also studying whether airlines in nearby countries use Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to fly over India in order to take a decision to stop these flights from entering Indian airspace. 

The Indian aviation regulator’s decision to ground  Boeing 737 Max planes came after it faced severe flak from air passengers and a number of airline experts who wanted immediate grounding of these planes as a safety precaution. 

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday issued only additional safety guideline to airlines, putting in place conditions such as that the aircraft could only be operated by pilots with a minimum of 1,000 hours of flight time in the Boeing 737 MAX. 

The grounding of MAX planes will immediately impact Indian carrier SpiceJet, which currently operate about 12 of these planes.

Aviation industry sources said the DGCA’s decision could affect SpiceJet’s on-going plans to expand its operations in the Gulf region using these planes.

It has recently announced operations to some new destinations in the Middle East and is understood to be planning to expand to more destinations in the Gulf from destinations other than Delhi and Mumbai.

Currently, SpiceJet uses B737 MAX planes to fly to Hong Kong from a number of Indian cities, in addition to several routes within India.

“SpiceJet has suspended Boeing 737 MAX operations following DGCA’s decision to ground the aircraft. Safety and security of our passengers, crew and operations are of utmost importance to us and we will be working with the regulator and the manufacturer to attain normalcy in our operations,” a SpiceJet spokesman told Arabian Business.

“We are confident of accommodating the vast majority of our passengers and minimize the inconvenience,” he added.

Jet Airways, which is the other Indian carrier operating B737 MAX planes, have grounded its five MAX aircrat because of payment issues with its leasing companies.

IndiGo, another Indian carrier, has also cancelled about 40 flights in a week through April, which is said to be due to a shortage of pilots.

The groundings of the B737 MAX planes by India and several other countries - including the UK, China, Singapore, Germany and Australia  - come after two deadly accidents within a span of five months.

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