• Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Business

Indian carriers may hit panic button as US restricts Boeing 737 MAX production

The American aviation regulator made the move to ensure safety of the aircraft following the January 5 incident when one of the Alaska Air Group Inc. planes, a 737 MAX, saw a midair blowout of a panel.

Air India Express managing director Aloke Singh (R) and chairman Campbell Wilson stand in front of an Air India Express’ Boeing 737 MAX passenger aircraft during an event unveiling the airline’s new brand identity at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai, India, on October 18, 2023. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

JUST when the Indian aviation sector, considered one of the most promising ones globally, was looking for a take off, a move by the American aviation regulator to put a restriction on the expansion in manufacturing of the controversial Boeing 737 Max aircraft could hurt India’s carriers in a spot.

On Wednesday (24), the US Federal Aviation Administrator (FAA) said in a release that it asked Boeing to restrict expansion of production of the MAX aircraft, including the 737-9 MAX. The move came after the January 5 incident in Portland when one of the Alaska Air Group Inc. planes, a 737 MAX, saw a midair blowout of a panel, threatening the safety of those on board.

The carrier subsequently discovered loose bolts on “many” of its Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft and grounded all its Boeing 737 planes. Alaska CEO Ben Minucucci later told NBC in an interview that the incident led to some “very tough, candid conversations” with the airline about the manufacturer’s operations.

Read: India’s Akasa Air orders 150 Boeing MAX jets

In its press release, the FAA said, “The Jan. 5 Boeing 737-9 MAX incident must never happen again. Accordingly, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is announcing additional actions to ensure every aircraft is safe. The FAA today informed Boeing it will not grant any production expansion of the MAX, including the 737-9 MAX.

Read: Want to see greater presence of Boeing in India, says commerce & trade minister Goyal

“This action comes on top of the FAA’s investigation and ramped up oversight of Boeing and its suppliers. The FAA today also approved a thorough inspection and maintenance process that must be performed on each of the grounded 171 Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft. Upon successful completion, the aircraft will be eligible to return to service.”

FAA administrator Nike Whitaker was also cited by the release as saying that it won’t be back to business as usual. He said they would not agree to any request from Boeing for an expansion in production or allow additional production lines for the 737 MAX till they are satisfied with the quality-control issue.

The halt will leave several Indian carriers, such as Air India Express, SpiceJet and Akasa Air worried since they reportedly placed orders for several variants of the aircraft.

Indian civil aviation regulator DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) carried out inspection of all 737 MAX aircraft that are currently in operation in India.

In a statement, it said, “As a precautionary measure, DGCA on 6 January directed all Indian operators with Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft to check the operation and proper closing of all over wing emergency exits by 7 January. These checks have been satisfactorily performed on the fleet of operational fleet of Boeing 737-8 Max aircraft by Air India Express (4), SpiceJet (8) and Akasa Air (20),” the regulator said in a statement.

The MAX family includes the 737 MAX 8, which is Boeing’s main cash cow. It was not clear how the restriction to MAX production “expansion” announced by the FAA would impact the company’s detailed near-term production ramp-up schedule.

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