India’s aviation safety regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Wednesday ordered that no Boeing 737 MAX jets would be allowed to enter Indian airspace after 4 pm IST today. Last night, the DGCA decided to ground the aircraft with immediate effect until appropriate modifications and safety measures are undertaken to ensure their safe operations.
Union Civil Aviation minister Jayant Sinha told ANI, “After discussions with airlines, regulators and aircraft manufacturers we decided last night that these planes be grounded and that their services will be resumed only after safety modifications are done in the aircraft.”
The Civil Aviation Ministry will also hold a meeting with airlines at 4 pm today to prepare a contingency plan as a number of flights have been cancelled following the suspension, news agency PTI reported.
In India, SpiceJet and Jet Airways operate the aircraft. While Jet’s all five 737 MAXs are grounded due to the airline’s financial woes, Spicejet has been allowed to fly till 4 pm today. “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,” a senior official told The Indian Express.
SpiceJet has also cancelled 14 of its flights today in line with the DGCA deadline and accommodated its passengers on alternate flights or offered a full refund. The airline said it would be operating additional flights from tomorrow.
“Safety and security of our passengers, crew and operations are of utmost importance to us and we are closely working with the regulator and manufacturer to resolve the matter,” Spicejet said in a statement.
On Sunday, a 737 Max aircraft was involved in a second fatal accident in less than five months. All 157 passengers, including four Indians, were killed after an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed en route to Kenya. In October last year, an aircraft operated by Lion Air crashed killing over 180 people in Indonesia.
Following the crashes that resulted in the death of 346 people, multiple airlines across the globe announced the suspension of flight operations of Boeing’s flagship narrowbody aircraft. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has banned the plane across Europe. A score of countries including the UK, France, Australia, Singapore, Germany, Malaysia, Oman among others joined the suspension.
The United States is one of the few remaining operators of the jet. US-based Boeing has said it has no reason to pull the popular aircraft from the skies and does not intend to issue new recommendations about the aircraft to customers. Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg also spoke with President Donald Trump and reiterated that the 737 Max 8 is safe, the company said.
In a statement, Boeing said that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was “not mandating any further action at this time” and based on the information available, the aircraft maker did not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.
The last time India announced a blanket grounding of aircraft was in 2013 when regulators followed FAA directive to bring Boeing’s 737 Dreamliner aircraft out of service due to heating problems with the plane’s lithium-ion batteries that had the potential to catch fire.