The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has asked SpiceJet and Jet Airways to initiate action for addressing the issues linked to their Boeing 737 MAX aircraft that could lead to a potential “altitude loss” of the planes.
The directive from DGCA follows advisories issued by US watchdog Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing regarding the planes in light of the crash of a Lion Air-operated 737 MAX aircraft in Indonesia last month.
Currently, Jet Airways and SpiceJet fly Boeing 737 MAX planes in India. Together, there are at least six such aircraft with the two carriers. As per Boeing data, the two airlines have ordered a total of 264 aircraft of this model.
“Both the documents address erroneous high ‘angle of attack’ (AOA) sensor input and corrective action for the same as it has potential for repeated nose-down trim commands of horizontal stabiliser” a senior Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official said. The official indicated that if the condition is not addressed, it could cause the flight crew to have difficulty in controlling the airplane.
The condition can even lead to “excessive nose-down attitude, significant altitude loss, and possible impact with terrain” the official noted. Based on initial investigation of Lion Air aircraft accident, the FAA issued Emergency Airworthiness Directive (AD) on November 7. Boeing released a bulletin about the issue on November 6.
While SpiceJet refused comment on the issue, a Jet Airways spokesperson said: “Jet Airways MAX aircraft continue to fly in compliance with the Airworthiness Directive (AD) issued by the manufacturer and the regulatory authorities. The airline is in contact with them and committed to implement all directives or advisories that may be published by either the manufacturer or DGCA as the safety of guests and crew is of paramount importance at Jet Airways.”
The DGCA official said that within three days after receipt of FAA AD, changes to airplane flight manual have to be done, for procedures which have to be followed by flight crew. “The DGCA has ensured that all Indian operators are aware of the FAA AD and have taken appropriate corrective action” he added.
On November 6, Boeing said it had issued an Operations Manual Bulletin (OMB) directing operators to existing flight crew procedures to address circumstances where there is erroneous input from an AOA sensor. On October 30, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said the DGCA had been asked to look at engines and other issues related to airlines following the plane crash in Indonesia.
The DGCA had reviewed the performance of Boeing 737 MAX planes operated by Jet Airways and SpiceJet. The review came a day after a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft operated by Lion Air crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from Jakarta. There were more than 180 people on board. The watchdog had also sought details about the plane crash from Boeing and FAA.