Friday, November 19, 2021

SpiceJet Boeing 737 Max performs ‘operational readiness’ flight today

New Delhi: Indian carriers — existing and upcoming — are gearing up to operate passenger flights on the Boeing 737 Max for the first time since they aircraft’s global grounding in March 2019.

SpiceJet currently has 13 leased Max in India and on Friday one of them are slated to have their “operational readiness” flight (without passengers) after the required hardware and software modifications were carried out on them.

Over the next few days some more SpiceJet Max will also have their readiness flight before being their return to service for commercial flights that is expected to happen very soon. Billionaire investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala’s Akasa has ordered 72 B737 Max which it will start getting in time for the planned launch in the summer of 2022.

B737 Max’s return of service — and more importantly winning people’s confidence back — of the Max is crucial for Boeing, SpiceJet and Akasa in India. Boeing desperately needs the Max to succeed to take on arch rival Airbus whose A320neo has been a runaway commercial success.

Cash-strapped SpiceJet needs fuel efficient planes to survive in a cost-hostile environment when crude prices are spiralling and its competitors in India are doing so. In fact IndiGo will by the end of 2022 replace all its older A320 ceos with the neos.

SpiceJet has cut flights this winter and is now number four in terms of domestic market share with GoAir overtaking it last month, as per DGCA data. IndiGo — the world’s biggest customer of Boeing arch rival Airbus A320 neo — remains the market leader by a huge margin, followed by Air India and GoAir.

It needs deliveries of Max to resume for phasing out older fuel-inefficient planes and then grow its fleet once the replacement is completed.

For Akaksa it is crucial Indian flyers have accepted the Max by the time it launches next summer.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had this August allowed the Max to fly again “upon satisfaction of applicable requirements for return to service” — meaning carrying out required changes to ensure safety.

The max were globally grounded in March 2019 following two crashes — one of Indonesian Lion Air and other of Ethiopian Airlines — in quick succession. The two crashes had claimed the lives of 346 people on board these planes.

19/11/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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