India’s aviation safety regulator will conduct its own validation tests of the grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft before it is given a clean chit to operate in the country’s skies, a senior official told The Indian Express. Arun Kumar, Director General of DGCA, pointed out that while it was still early days to spell out India’s plan of action, an independent validation will be done to ensure all safety parameters are met.
Currently, SpiceJet – one of the world’s biggest customers for 737 MAX 8 aircraft with 155 on order – has taken delivery of 13 such planes so far, all of which are grounded.
“We wish to do our due diligence to ensure complete safety of passengers when the aircraft eventually returns to operation. All pilots flying this aircraft will have to train on the simulator before flying the plane on an operational flight,” Kumar said.
Earlier this month, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) indicated that it would also conduct its own flight tests before clearing the aircraft, which saw two fatal accidents in a span of five months, killing a total of 346 people on board. EASA has reportedly laid down certain parameters for the aircraft to fulfill, upon which it will approve the plane for flight in the European Union.
Last month, Kumar told reporters that India will take a “conservative” approach in lifting the flying ban on the 737 MAX. “The Boeing 737 MAX aircraft has done more than 800 hours of test flight since it was grounded,” he had said.
Officials indicated that the contours of India’s plan pertaining to 737 MAX will be clearer once the model is re-certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), adding that Boeing was likely to approach the US watchdog for re-certification by October.
Any new aircraft or engine model is certified by the regulator of the country where the product has been manufactured – in this case the United States. “Therefore, it is important to wait for FAA to re-certify the aircraft,” an official said.
In March, India had grounded the aircraft model “until appropriate modifications and safety measures are undertaken to ensure their safe operations”. Notably, India’s move had come shortly after EASA announced suspension of flight operations of Boeing’s flagship narrowbody aircraft across Europe.
While officials of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) did not specify a timeline for the return of the 737 MAX, SpiceJet had initially expected it to come back into service by July-August, according to its understanding with Boeing.
However, now it expects the plane to be back by end of this calendar year.
According to some reports, Boeing expects the global ban on the aircraft to be lifted in phases across the world, with various regulators clearing the plane to fly gradually.
As per an AFP report, Boeing chief executive officer Dennis Muilenburg said the company was still working through a number of questions with the FAA and other aviation watchdogs but that supported the manufacturers timeline for an early fourth quarter return to service.