India’s aviation watchdog on Saturday directed all air operators to conduct a one-time inspection of the emergency exits on all Boeing 737-8 Max aircraft currently operating as part of their fleet. It said this was a precautionary measure after the Alaska Airlines incident, in which the outer section, including a window, of a Boeing 737-9 Max plane fell off mid-air.
According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), none of the Indian air operators has the Boeing 737-9 Max aircraft as part of their fleet. However, three airline services — Akasa Air, Air India Express and SpiceJet — are flying the Boeing 737-8 Max aircraft.
“Pursuant to the Alaska Airlines incident involving Boeing 737 -9 Max aircraft, there have been no inputs/guidance from Boeing so far. None of the Indian air operators have Boeing 737-9 Max as part of their fleet yet. However, as an abundant precautionary measure, DGCA has directed all the Indian air operators to carry out a one-time inspection of the emergency exits immediately on all Boeing 737-8 Max aircraft currently operating as part of their fleet,” it said.
The DGCA further said it was issuing these directions in its own capacity as there have been no inputs or guidance from Boeing so far after the Alaska Airlines incident. The “one-time emergency exit checks” should mandatorily be carried out by all operators by noon on January 7. The inspections will be done during the night halt of the aircraft concerned and, as a result, will not impact flight schedules, a senior official said.
In their fleets, Akasa Air has 22 Max planes, SpiceJet has more than 10 such planes and Air India Express has nine such aircraft. “We do not have any 737-9 Max in our fleet. SpiceJet will adhere to the DGCA directive on the Max-8,” a spokesperson said. There were no immediate comments from Akasa Air and Air India Express on the DGCA directive.
While Boeing has not separately issued any directives on the matter, it has said it is aware of the incident involving the Alaska Airlines flight. “Aware of the incident involving Alaska Airlines Flight AS1282. We are working to gather more information and are in contact with our airline customer. A Boeing technical team stands ready to support the investigation,” the company said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
Taking prompt action, however, the Alaska Airlines grounded its fleet of 65 Boeing 737-9 Max planes. The flight bound for Ontario city in California, US, was forced to make a landing soon after departure when its outer section, including a window, fell off mid-air. The gaping hole caused the cabin to depressurise, and the plane had reportedly climbed to 16,000 feet by then.
The flight safely landed back at Portland with 174 passengers and six crew, about 20 minutes after takeoff. Social media posts showed a window and portion of a side wall missing on the airplane, and oxygen masks deployed.
(With PTI inputs)