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Published on: Nov. 28, 2021, 8:29 p.m.
Boeing 737 Max is back in SpiceJet’s fleet
  • The 737 MAX is considered as the most environmental friendly aircraft; Photos: Yeshi Seli

By Yeshi Seli. Assistant Editor, Business India

After a two-and-a-half-year hiatus, SpiceJet has reintroduced Boeing 737 Max in its fleet. 

The Boeing 737 Max passenger aircraft was grounded worldwide in March 2019, after 346 people died in two air crashes. The first was Lion Air (29 October, 2018) and the second was Ethiopian Airlines (10 March, 2019). 

Investigations revealed that there was a design flaw that led to the crash.

“If an aircraft’s nose is too high, the plane loses speed and is likely to enter a stall – a state in which it loses flight and can fall from the sky. The aircraft was designed to prevent such an eventuality, but it did not work in these two fatal crashes,” according to an aviation expert.

Boeing rectified the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). It also set up simulators and training centres to train pilots on the MCAS.

Boeing has re-engineered the aircraft and as many as 32 airlines globally have resumed flying the Max 737 again. SpiceJet (the only operator of this aircraft in India at present) has resumed operations on Max 737 a few days back.

“The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) withdrew its ban on operating the Max 737 in August (though in other parts of the world the aircraft had begun to operate in 2020) and we have resumed flying it in November,’’ says Ajay Singh, CMD, SpiceJet, adding that the new aircraft has 40 per cent reduced noise levels, has more leg room for passengers and is fuel efficient.

Since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared the decks for 737 Max’s flying in November 2020, more than 235,000 commercial flights have flown on this aircraft.

“We have arrived at a settlement with Boeing (following the grounding of the aircraft) and have received compensation in cash and kind (aircraft),’’ said Singh without quantifying the amount of compensation.

It is understood that some airlines are giving passengers a choice about flying 737 Max – if they still have some security concerns. However, Singh feels that such queries are unwarranted as the aircraft is amongst the safest in the world.

“We are flying on 14 international destinations at present and would like to add new destinations like Thailand, Hong Kong, Bangladesh on our routes,” says Singh. 

SpiceJet at present has 13 Max 737 on ground and four more are ready for delivery. By 2022-23 another 50 aircraft would be ready for delivery.

SpiceJet had signed a $22 billion deal with Boeing for up to 205 aircraft in 2017.

SpiceJet aircraft are equipped with Satcom that will enable the airline to offer internet on board. “Barring voice calling we will offer free browsing for some time to our passengers on board,’’ Singh added.

The MAX can fly up to 3,500 nautical miles which is approximately 19 per cent more than 737-800 enabling the airline to fly to newer destinations. The 737 MAX is considered as the most environmental friendly aircraft. It uses up to 20 per cent less fuel than older 737s. The new CFM Leap engine, made from ultra-light and ultra-strong carbon blades, increases fuel efficiency of the MAX by 12 per cent, the all-new advanced technology winglet increases fuel efficiency by 1.8 per cent and the new tailcone by another 1 per cent. The nitrogen emissions of 737 MAX has been reduced by 50 per cent.

SpiceJet and Jet Airways were the only two airlines in India which were operating the Boeing 737 MAX 8 when the global ban on the aircraft came into effect.

Akasa, the new start-up ultra-low-cost airline launched jointly by billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala and former IndiGo Airlines President Aditya Ghosh, ordered 72 Boeing MAX aircraft at the recently concluded Dubai Air Show. The order includes the MAX 737-8 and the high capacity 737-8-200 aircraft.

“We are optimistic that domestic flying in India will soon see a further increase and this will be good news for the aviation sector,’’ says Salil Gupte, President Boeing India. 

SpiceJet celebrated the return to service of the 737 MAX with a special flight from New Delhi to Gwalior on 23 November with the Union minister for Civil Aviation, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Ajay Singh, Salil Gupte and members of the Press.

Interestingly, the minister restrained from making any comments or observations of either Max 737 or SpiceJet. When the special flight landed at Gwalior he disembarked from the aircraft, got into a car that was waiting for him on the runway and left.

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