The Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Monday issued additional safety instructions to two Indian carriers that operate the Boeing 737 Max aircraft. Pilots of SpiceJet and Jet Airways should have at least 1,000 hours of flying experience to command these planes.
Taking serious note of the second deadly crash involving a 737 MAX plane globally in less than five months, the civil aviation ministry also ordered a “safety assessment” of these aircraft and the watchdog is also holding consultation with safety regulators around the world.
In a statement, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said interim safety measures are being taken with inputs available at this stage.
“The minimum experience level of crew operating B-737 Max aircraft to fly as PIC (Pilot-in-Command) is 1,000 hours and co-pilot is 500 hours on Boeing 737 NG aircraft type,” the regulator said.
The direction comes a day after 157 people were killed after an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed 6 minutes after take-off from Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Sunday.
Besides, SpiceJet and Jet Airways have been asked to ensure various requirements are complied with by engineering and maintenance personnel with respect to 737 MAX 8 planes.
These include conditions that Minimum Equipment List (MEL) would not be released for operating an aircraft in case dual auto pilot mode and certain other parts are inoperative.
Any error which comes across would have to be rectified before releasing the aircraft for line maintenance as well as ensuring that angle of attack’ (AOA) is in null position.
Generally, AOA is crucial in determining the angle at which an aircraft flies relative to the direction of air.
“The DGCA will continue to closely monitor the situation and may impose/ take any other operational/ maintenance measures/ restrictions based on the information received from accident investigation agency/ FAA (Federal Aviation Administration/ Boeing,” the statement said.
The operators have to ensure that no MAX aircraft in their fleet is operated without compliance with DGCA’s latest directions with effect from 1200 hours on March 12, the statement said.
The aviation regulator had said on Monday that it will seek information from Boeing as well as Jet Airways and SpiceJet, which operate the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.
Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu has asked aviation watchdog DGCA to undertake safety assessment of Boeing 737 MAX planes operated by domestic airlines.
“Safety of the passengers is our utmost concern. Directed Secretary and DGCA to take appropriate action immediately,” Prabhu said in a tweet.
Jet Airways has placed orders for 225 737 MAX planes with Boeing and some have already been delivered.
SpiceJet, which has embarked on ambitious expansion plans, has a deal with Boeing for up to 205 aircraft, including at least 155 737 MAX 8 planes.
A total of 149 passengers and 8 crew members from 35 countries were on board the Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302 when it ploughed into a field in Bishoftu (formerly Debre Zeit), a town located 48 kilometres south east of Addis Ababa.
It was expected to land at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 10:25 am local time.
Four Indians, including a UNDP consultant attached to India’s Environment Ministry, lost their lives in the crash.
This was second time in less than six months that a brand-new Boeing aircraft crashed just minutes into a flight.
The last crash was of a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight, which went down over the Java Sea in late October killing all 189 people on board.
Last December, the DGCA had asked Jet Airways and SpiceJet to immediately report any “abnormal” issues related to the MAX plane’s Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), following the Lion Air crash.
Following Sunday’s accident, Ethiopian Airlines grounded its entire Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet until further notice.
On Monday, China, too, grounded all of its Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China said in a statement that all domestic Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets would be out of action for some time, due to its principle of “zero tolerance for safety hazards”.