NEW DELHI: Boeing has begun “return to service” modification work on the five B737 Max in India that now-defunct Jet Airways had in its fleet. Once complete, the two foreign lessors of these five planes will seek India’s nod to either fly them to their home countries or to new customers abroad. This aircraft is barred from flying in or over India since March 2019.
The B737 Max was grounded globally following two deadly crashes in March 2019. At that time, two airlines had this aircraft in India — five with Jet and 13 with SpiceJet. In the past few months, the aviation regulators of US, Europe and some other countries have allowed the Max to fly again after carrying out modifications approved by them in both the software and hardware of this aircraft. The Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is yet to approve the changes and allow the Max to fly again either within; to; from or over (overfly) the country.
“A Boeing technical team is carrying out the return to service program for the five Max that were leased by erstwhile Jet Airways. This work has not started on the 13 Max of SpiceJet, which has not been paying lease rentals for these planes,” said multiple people in the know.
SpiceJet sources say any modifications in the Max it has in India can be carried out only after the Indian DGCA approves of the changes. About non-payment of lease rentals, airline sources questioned why the same should be paid for an aircraft that is grounded and is yet to be cleared to fly again by India.
Comments have been sought from the lessors of this aircraft to both erstwhile Jet and SpiceJet and are awaited.
Both Jet and SpiceJet took the Max on sale-and-lease back (SLB). Jet, which had ordered 225 Max, had inducted the first one in June 2018. Shortly thereafter the airline flew into a severe financial crisis and its inability pay lease rentals meant it could fly its five Max only for a few months.
In March 2019, the Max were globally grounded soon two Max crashed within five months. In all, 346 people died in these two crashes. Finally, Jet Airways ceased operations in April 2019.
Since last December, the B737 Max has been allowed to fly again by regulators in some places like the US and Europe.
Some neighbouring countries have also allowed the Max to fly again after carrying out required safety modifications. India will be in the range for airline of these countries like flydubai, Oman Air and Singapore Airlines. The Indian DGCA has not yet received a request from any of these airlines to operate the Max on flights to and from India, or to overfly Indian airspace.