India grounds the 737 MAX

India will not allow U.S. planemaker Boeing Co’s 737 MAX aircraft to enter or transit its airspace after 1030 GMT, the ministry of civil aviation said, following the fatal crash of a plane of the same type in Ethiopia. The US remains the only major market in which the 737 MAX is still flying on commercial routes. The Boeing 737 MAX ...

India will not allow U.S. planemaker Boeing Co’s 737 MAX aircraft to enter or transit its airspace after 1030 GMT, the ministry of civil aviation said, following the fatal crash of a plane of the same type in Ethiopia. The US remains the only major market in which the 737 MAX is still flying on commercial routes. 

Background 

The Boeing 737 MAX is an American narrow-body aircraft series designed and produced by Boeing Commercial Airplanes as the fourth generation of the Boeing 737, succeeding the Boeing 737 Next Generation (NG).

The new 737 generations were launched on August 30, 2011. It performed its first flight on January 29, 2016. The new series gained FAA certification on March 8, 2017. The first delivery was a MAX 8 on May 6, 2017, to Malindo Air, which placed the aircraft into service on May 22, 2017.

As of January 2019, the Boeing 737 MAX has received 5,011 firm orders and delivered 350. The 737 MAX 8 has been involved in two fatal crashes as of March 2019.

On October 29, 2018, Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing 737 MAX 8 registration PK-LQP, crashed into the Java Sea 13 minutes after take-off from Soekarno–Hatta International Airport, Jakarta, Indonesia. The flight was a scheduled domestic flight to Depati Amir Airport, Pangkal Pinang, Indonesia. All 189 onboard died. On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, 737 MAX 8 registration ET-AVJ, crashed approximately six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa. The flight was a scheduled flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Nairobi, Kenya.  All 149 passengers and 8 crew members on board died. The aircraft was only 4 months old at the time.

Analysis 

The Indian civil aviation ministry said late on March 12 that it would ground 737 MAX immediately. Jet Airways Ltd and SpiceJet Ltd, two top Indian airlines, operate Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. SpiceJet suspended operations of the 737 MAX after the regulator’s decision to ground the aircraft, the airline’s spokesman said on Wednesday. It expects to complete grounding of the Boeing jets by the 1030 GMT deadline. The airline has 13 737 MAX jets in its fleet.

Jet Airways, in a response to customer queries on Twitter, said it was not flying the 737 MAX.

Meanwhile, US airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration are coming under heavy pressure from politicians, passengers and some unions to ground the Boeing 737 Max aircraft involved in two deadly crashes in five months. 

The FAA is one of the few major aviation regulators to allow the 737 Max to remain in the air after a number of authorities grounded the plane or banned it from their skies. That has led to what experts say is an unprecedented rift between the world’s main flight safety agencies.

Boeing and the FAA were facing the prospect of congressional hearings into the issue, as a growing number of politicians weighed in to demand action and it emerged that pilots had reported problems with the Max 8’s automated flight control system that was believed to be involved in a Lion Air crash in October 2018 in Indonesia.

The FAA maintained that the plane was safe in a new statement released late on Tuesday. That came at the end of a day when European and Asian regulators acted to stop flights of the aircraft, a new version of Boeing’s best-selling 737. The EU issued a continent-wide ban of both the Max 8 and the Max 9, another variant of the plane. 

At least two US pilots filed complaints to a federal database last year about flaws in the automated flight control system. They complained it caused the nose of their planes to tilt down suddenly, the same problem believed to be at fault in the Lion Air disaster. The database is run independently of the FAA by Nasa, the US space agency, and publicises complaints without revealing the airline involved.

Assessment 

Our assessment is that a global halt on 737 MAX operations seems inevitable after India and China’s decision to ground these planes. We believe that the US FAA has not grounded the planes because of potential lobbying efforts against it, considering the 737 MAX was slated to replace all older models of Boeing’s mid-range, single aisle planes on domestic routes. A global halt on the plane’s operations would result in the rapid evaporation of customer confidence in Boeing’s most profitable airline segment.  

 

 

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