DALLAS – India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has declared that 90 LCC SpiceJet (SG) pilots are not allowed to operate the Boeing 737 MAX. The affected SG pilots will need to go through specific training in a simulator before flying the type again.
“For the moment, we have barred these pilots from flying Max and they have to retrain successfully for flying Max.”, explained Arun Kumar, the DGCA director. “Also, we will take strict action against those found responsible for the lapse”.
The decision should not impact the airline, however, as SG pilots can still fly the MAX predecessor, the Boeing 737 NG aircraft. An airline spokeperson explained that the carrier has trained 650 pilots to fly the MAX, but that it only needs 144 of them to operate the 11 MAX units in its fleet.
This means 560 pilots are still available to fly the type, which is more than enough.
SpiceJet’s Boeing 737 MAX
SpiceJet is currently the only airline operating the Boeing 737 MAX in India. However, newcomer Akasa Air has MAX aircraft on order and plans to start flying them in 2022.
SpiceJet first ordered the Boeing 737 MAX in 2017, when the airline announced a huge order for more than 200 units, including 150 firm orders. The airline was looking to replace its Boeing 737NG fleet with more modern, fuel-efficient aircraft.
As we know, the MAX fleet was grounded in 2019 following two fatal crashes involving the type. In August last year, the DGCA re-certified the aircraft, and SG was therefore able to operate it again. The airline hopes to take delivery of about 50 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft by 2023.
The aircraft will indeed play a key role in the airline’s strategy, expanding SG’s domestic and international destinations. The MAX can fly almost 20% longer than the 737NG, meaning the airline can now reach new destinations in Eastern Asia and the Middle East.
The bottom line is that while the decision to ban 90 pilots from flying the 737 MAX means SG will need to provide additional training, it will not have a significant negative effect on the airline’s operations.
Featured image: SG operates about 50 737NG aircraft, compared to 11 737 MAX. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways