India's aviation regulator DGCA on Thursday lifted the ban on Boeing 737 Max planes' commercial flight operations after almost two-and-half years.
On March 13, 2019, all Boeing 737 Max planes were grounded in India by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max plane on March 10 near Addis Ababa which had left 157 people, including four Indians, dead.
Currently, in India, only SpiceJet airline has Boeing 737 Max aircraft in its fleet. The budget carrier, in a statement on Thursday, said it expects to start operations of Max planes around the end of September, subject to regulatory approvals.
Aircraft manufacturer Boeing has been modifying the 737 Max plane since March 2019 so that various countries' regulators, including the DGCA, permit its commercial flight operations again.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had in October last year declared the Max aircraft safe to fly. A month later, US aviation regulator FAA cleared Max aircraft to fly.
In its order dated August 26, 2021, the DGCA said that since the orders issued by FAA and EASA in October and November last year, it "has been closely monitoring the global trend with regard to un-grounding" of 737 Max planes.
Total 34 airlines across the world have operated 1.22 lakh flights using 345 Max aircraft -- since the plane was un-grounded in late last year -- without "untoward reporting", India's aviation regulator said.
Therefore, the DGCA stated that the operation of Boeing 737 Max planes in India are permitted "only upon satisfaction of applicable requirements for return to service".
A senior DGCA official confirmed that the ban on 737 Max planes' commercial flight operations has been lifted on Thursday.
The March 10, 2019 accident near Addis Ababa was the second in a period of five months. On October 29, 2018, a 737 Max plane operated by Lion Air had crashed in Indonesia, killing 180 people.
On March 13, 2019, SpiceJet had to ground 12 Max planes, forcing it to cancel a significant number of flights on that day as well as on the next day.
Jet Airways also had five Max planes in its fleet but they were already grounded as on March 13, 2019 due to non-payment of dues to the lessors. A month later, the full-service carrier had shut down its operations due to lack of funds.
In March 2019 itself, several countries grounded 737 Max planes.
According to Boeing's statement in April 2019, the preliminary report of Ethiopian Accident Investigation Bureau contained flight data recorder information indicating that the Ethiopian Airlines' aircraft had an erroneous sensor that activated the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) function during the flight, just like what happened during the Lion Air 610 flight on October 29, 2018.
MCAS was designed to automatically push the nose of the plane downward whenever it's activated.