A brand new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, operated by budget carrier SpiceJet, was diverted to Varanasi on Sunday after its left engine developed a snag mid-air while en route Delhi from Hong Kong. The latest trim of Boeing’s 737 family has regulators perturbed across the world since a crash of the same aircraft model on October 29 last year in Indonesia that killed 189 people on board following loss of control.
In Sunday’s case, a fuel control valve on SpiceJet’s VT-MAX – the first 737 MAX delivered to the airline back in October – malfunctioned and disrupted the fuel supply to its left engine leading to the powerplant being shut down. Most modern airliners that operate with two engines are able to sustain flight even with one engine.
“On 6th January 2019, SpiceJet flight SG-32 HKG-DEL was diverted to Varanasi after the pilots noticed low fuel supply in no. 1 engine. Pilots followed the SoP and landed safely in Varanasi. The passengers were deplaned normally. On inspection, a fuel control valve (a minor component) was found to have malfunctioned and is being replaced,” a SpiceJet spokesperson said. The aircraft had around 140 passengers on board. The airline later sent a replacement aircraft to Varanasi to ferry the passengers to Delhi.
Performance related issues with new models of aircraft and engines have hassled the Indian aviation industry for more than a year now. SpiceJet’s competitors IndiGo and GoAir have faced a series of issues with Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan engines equipped on their Airbus A320neo aircraft.
Taking cognisance of the repeated problems with the engine model, the government will review the situation on Tuesday.