'For SpiceJet, Boeing B737 Max's ungrounding makes no difference yet'
'In India, the B737 Max is still grounded. Until and unless DGCA gives permission, no Indian airline can fly the Max,' a source said
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) clearance to the controversial Boeing B737 Max last month makes no difference to SpiceJet, the Indian carrier that solely flies the plane at present because the Indian aviation regulator is yet to give approval. So the Indian carrier considers that there has been no ungrounding of the B737 Max.
"The Max has been approved by the FAA. That order is only valid for American airlines, not Indian carriers. So let us see. When the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) approves it, we can comment on it, because airlines in India are guided by the DGCA. For India, the Max is still grounded. Until and unless DGCA gives permission, no Indian airline can fly the Max. Every single country has a regulator, which has to give approval. It's too premature to comment on anything," a source, who did not wish to be named, told Plane Vanilla.
When the aircraft was grounded in March 2019, Spicejet was operating 12 such planes, and according to a report, it has 200 more such planes on order. Another report in July said that SpiceJet had incurred costs of over Rs 6.7 billion due to the grounding of the Max, and SpiceJet's annual operating loss stood at Rs 9.3 billion, which was an increase of more than thrice of the Rs 2.4 billion loss reported in fiscal 2019.
Following the FAA clearance, Director General of Civil Aviation Arun Kumar said that the Indian regulator would "study and react", and that "it will take some time", according to a report.
On the huge compensation sought by SpiceJet from Boeing, the source told Plane Vanilla, "Every result statement that we issue mentions about our negotiation with Boeing. That is already on record." SpiceJet had demanded compensation amounting to about Rs 950 crore from Boeing.
The official spokesperson for SpiceJet declined to comment.
The B737 Max was involved in two fatal crashes in a space of just over four months in which 346 people died. The aircraft's stall-prevention system called Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was blamed by the investigators for both the crashes.
The MCAS is a safety system installed on the B737 Max to control the plane's tendency to tilt nose-up because of the size and placement of the engines, a report had pointed out. It repeatedly shoves the nose of the plane down if the plane perceives it is in a stall.
In both the crashes, erroneous sensor data triggered the MCAS and strongly pushed the nose of the plane down so much so that it went out of the pilots' control, sending the nearly brand-new jets into deadly plunges.
The MCAS has now been altered to prevent it from getting repeatedly activated and has been re-engineered to limit how sharply it can dive. Redesigning of the plane’s flight-control computer has been done to improve redundancy as well.
The Max is a re-engined and fuel-efficient version of an aircraft that was first flown in the 1960s and rivals Airbus's A320 Neo as a workhorse for airlines around the world. Nearly 400 B737 Max planes were in operation worldwide when they were grounded.
The Max is based on earlier 737 designs and boasts of more efficient CFM International LEAP-1B engines, aerodynamic changes, including its distinctive split-tip winglets and airframe modifications.
According to an article on Plane Vanilla, the FAA had estimated that there could have been 15 more crashes during the lifetime of the B737 Max if the MCAS was not fixed. The US pilots unions, however, said that they were satisfied with the improvements made to the Max.
On December 3, Boeing got its first order of the B737 Max since its grounding, with Irish no-frills carrier Ryanair placing an order for 75 Max planes.