Delhi headquartered low-cost airline SpiceJet’s Boeing 737 MAX 8 had to be turned around and return to the southern Indian city of Chennai a short while after take-off on May 3. The flight was going to Durgapur in the eastern state of West Bengal.

The aircraft landed back safely,” a spokesperson for the airline said. Officials investigating the incident said that the aircraft was involved in an air turnback due to the number two engine In-Flight Shut (IFSD) down during the climb. CFM LEAP-1B number 2’s oil filter bypass light illuminated. The pilot in command carried out the IFSD of the number 2 engine as per SOP. An air turnback was initiated and the aircraft landed safely back in Chennai.  The aircraft has been grounded and the incident is being investigated, official sources said.  

Late last month, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Indian aviation watchdog restricted 90 SpiceJet pilots from operating the MAX aircraft till they had undergone re-training to its satisfaction. The low-cost airline has 650 pilots trained for flying the Boeing MAX. SpiceJet currently has 13 Boeing MAX aircraft in its fleet of which 11 are operational. The airline has 155 Boeing MAX on order and options on another 55 of this variety of aircraft.

The need for re-training the SpiceJet MAX pilots came to light during an inspection of a training facility near Delhi that the DGCA carried out. The simulator where the pilots were being trained was found to be “dysfunctional” and since about 90 SpiceJet pilots had been trained at that facility since March this year they were asked to undergo re-training. The pilots will now have to do ‘Return to Service’ training which involves two-day training in the simulator once it is fully functional. The Return to Service training was recommended after the global grounding of the MAX aircraft, following two incidents of it fatal crashes.

DGCA allowed the  Boeing 737 MAX  to re-enter service in India in August 2021 with the first flight being operated by SpiceJet with this variety of aircraft in November of the same year. Currently, SpiceJet is the only MAX aircraft operator in India. Jet Airways which temporarily stopped operations in April 2019 too had MAX aircraft. A new start-up low-cost airline, Akasa,  ordered 72 MAX at the Dubai Air Show in November 2021.

Akasa expects to take to the skies in July this year and expects to induct 18 Boeing MAX in its fleet during the first year with the entire order being completed in five years. The first 20 MAX that Akasa will receive will be whitetail aircraft, which are planes that have been produced but not taken by any airline.

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Ashwini Phadnis
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