Low-cost carrier SpiceJet has banned 90 of its Boeing 737 Max pilots from flying after India’s aviation regulator asked the airline to do so back in April.
A mass pilot exodus
India’s aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) ordered the ban on 90 of SpiceJet’s pilots after it found that they were not sufficiently trained on the simulator to fly the aircraft.
According to a report by The Times of India, the pilots will not be able to operate the 737 Max until the DGCA is satisfied with their new training.
The 90 affected pilots underwent their Boeing 737 Max training at a facility in Noida, just outside the capital New Delhi. Crucial components of their training were not implemented correctly for these pilots in particular.
According to industry professionals and those most familiar with this matter, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was not working properly on the simulator when the 90 pilots were being trained at the facility. Boeing’s MCAS was designed to enhance the pitch stability of the aeroplane.
The MCAS has a deadly history. The 737 Max was grounded in 2019 after two fatal crashes caused by failures of the MCAS sensors. The investigation(s) drew many conclusions, one of which being that additional pilot training was required to ensure pilots were familiar with the characteristics of the MCAS and how the aircraft with MCAS installed is different from older and more familiar 737 aircraft.
The Indian low-cost carrier is the second airline carrier in India and currently has 13 Max aircraft in its fleet – 11 are on active duty.
SpiceJet is also the only Indian airline to fly the Max aeroplanes after they reintroduced the aircraft to commercial operations in December 2021.
SpiceJet has confirmed that the routes operated by the 737 Max will not be affected as they have more than enough pilots (650 pilots are trained adequately to fly the 737 Max) to continue its schedule of 60 daily flights as normal.
Senior Vice President (Legal) and Company Secretary for SpiceJet, Chandan Sand, discussed the matter in a statement:
“The Company has 650 pilots trained on MAX aircraft and DGCA had an observation on the training profile followed for 90 pilots. As per the advice of DGCA, the Company restricted these 90 pilots from operating MAX aircraft, until these pilots undergo re-training to the satisfaction of DGCA. This restriction does not impact the operations of MAX aircraft and the Company has adequate trained pilots available for its operations. Basis the observation of DGCA these 90 pilots shall undergo re-training. DGCA has imposed penalty of Rs.10 lakh basis its audit observations.”
The DGCA is expected to follow up on the training progress of the pilots before allowing them to operate the 737 Max again.
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