Almost ten hours after the Ministry of Civil Aviation announced Indian aviation safety regulator’s decision to ground Boeing 737 MAX “immediately” — joining a score of countries to do so — India’s SpiceJet continued to fly the aircraft as of Wednesday morning and has been allowed to do so till 4pm.
Why is that so? To that question, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) – the country’s aviation regulator – said it had taken cognisance of this. A senior official told The Indian Express: “This is to cater to situations where aircraft are to fly back to India or go to a maintenance facility for parking. All MAX shut down before 4pm today”.
Globally, following grounding announcements of the 737 MAX, which was involved in two fatal crashes in less than five months resulting in deaths of 346 people, airlines turned back their aircraft mid-air to return to their home bases.
In a late night move on Tuesday, the civil aviation ministry had announced: “DGCA has taken the decision to ground the Boeing 737-MAX planes immediately. These planes will be grounded till appropriate modifications and safety measures are undertaken to ensure their safe operations”.
SpiceJet operates a fleet of 12 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, while Jet Airways operates five of the Boeing’s latest flagship narrowbody plane. However, Jet’s planes were already grounded due to the airline’s financial woes.
In a statement early Wednesday, following the grounding directive, SpiceJet had said: “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. We are confident of accommodating the vast majority of our passengers and minimise inconvenience”.
The last time India announced a blanket grounding of aircraft was in 2013 when regulators followed FAA directive to bring Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft out of service due to heating problems with the plane’s lithium-ion batteries that had the potential to catch fire.