Rattled by a second crash involving a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airliner, India has joined a long line of nations to order additional safety measures for flying these fourth generation 737 airliners that have become the favourite of airlines for fuel efficiency and ease of operation. The latest crash claimed 157 lives aboard an Ethiopian Airways plane bound for Kenyan capital Nairobi from Addis Ababa.
Indian budget airline SpiceJet operates 13 Boeing 737 MAX 8s and they will need additional safety checks before flying. The airline has another 155 such aircraft on order. The only other Indian airline that has Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes on its fleet is Jet Airways. But all its five MAX aircraft are grounded after defaulting on the lease payment.
The order of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) prescribing additional measures for Indian operators cover the areas of engineering and maintenance and flight operations, according to reports. The DGCA has instructed the airlines to ensure that the captain operating the MAX aircraft has at least 1,000 hours of experience and co-pilot 500 hours on 737 planes.
The engineering departments will have to stop the MAX planes from operating in case of dual failure of autopilot and faults in spoiler system. The DGCA order says these are interim measures and the US maker of the aircraft, Boeing, as well as the US Federal Aviation Administration have also been alerted of the notice.
The crash of Ethiopian airline flight on Sunday had many similarities with the Indonesian Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 crash on October 29 last year killing all 189 aboard. The crashes of both Ethiopian Airline's Flight 302 and Lion Air's Flight 610 happened in similar circumstances, according to reports. The Ethiopian plane signalled distress to air controllers six minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa and then lost contact.
The search and rescue party found the wreckage close to the place of the flight's last reported location. The Indonesian flight also had reported distress 13 minutes into its flight out of Jakarta en route to Depati Amir Airport of the Indonesian city of Pangkal Pinang. in Bangka Belitung island province, aviation experts say.
Ethiopian Airlines has grounded the remaining four 737 MAX 8 planes on its fleet as a safety precaution. The Indonesian government has also grounded all 737 MAX 8 planes of Lion Air and other airlines for further safety checks. China ordered its airlines to suspend all Boeing 737 MAX 8 operations from Monday. Chinese airlines are among the biggest users of Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes with 97 planes in service in the country out of the 350 aircraft sold so far worldwide by Boeing.