NEW DELHI: The process of lessors flying out the five Boeing 737 Max that once flew for now-defunct Jet Airways, from India has started. Two companies, GECAS and SMBC, flew out a Max each from Hyderabad and Kochi this Saturday (May 22).
As part of the simultaneous global grounding, India had barred the B737 Max from flying to/from/over it on March 13, 2019. In all 18 Max — five ex-Jet and 13 of SpiceJet — were in India at that time. From late last year aviation regulators of places like the US, UK and UAE started allowing this plane to fly again after Boeing carried out required hardware and software modifications in them.
India had on April 20, 2021, paved the way for the Boeing 737 Max to overfly its airspace and also for foreign lessors of this aircraft to fly it out of here by taking permission from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). “Those overflying and those being readied for return to service and belonging to lessors have been exempted and can be flown away from India,” said a senior official for the B737 Max.
A Boeing team has been in India for the past few months to carry out required modifications for the ex-Jet’s Max “return to service” to enable lessors to fly them out of here. After DGCA’s last month order, the lessors first carried out some test flights on the two aircraft and then flew them out with DGCA clearance on Saturday.
“Two ex-Jet B737 Max did leave India on Saturday on ferry flights (without passengers and only crew). A few weeks back these same aircraft did test flights in Hyderabad and Kochi where they had been parked since the grounding,” said a person in the know.
To be sure, SpiceJet — the only Indian airline that has the aircraft in India — can’t operate it for any domestic or international flight as of now as the DGCA is yet to approve the same. SpiceJet has 13 Max in India on lease. Since they are grounded, the airline says, it has not been paying the lease for these planes. Now if SpiceJet lessors want to repossess the planes and fly them out, they may be able to do so.
While the march 2019 ban on Max in India remains, Indian DGCA says that operational prohibition does not apply to two categories.
These are: “Foreign-registered B737 Max aircraft, currently grounded in India, for performing operational readiness flight followed by ferry fight outside India (with DGCA permission).” And secondly for “foreign-registered B737 Max aircraft for overflying the Indian airspace (with prior DGCA permission).”
The Max has globally grounded in March 2019 soon two Max crashed within five months. In all, 346 people lost their lives in these two crashes.