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India joins global suspension wave; grounds all 18 Boeing 737 MAX planes

Agencies & BS Reporters/New Delhi | Mumbai 13 Mar 19 | 02:05 AM

Boeing shares fell over 6% intra-day in New York, after logging the biggest drop among S&P 500 index members the previous day

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), India’s aviation regulator, has grounded Boeing 737 MAX planes till “appropriate safety measures" are undertaken, joining a wave of suspensions of the aircraft in the wake of a crash in Ethiopia that killed 157 people.

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“Passenger safety remains our top priority. We continue to consult closely with regulators around the world, airlines, and aircraft manufacturers to ensure passenger safety," the Ministry of Civil Aviation tweeted late Tuesday night. “These planes will be grounded till appropriate modifications and safety measures are undertaken to ensure their safe operations." 

There are 18 Boeing 737 Max planes in India — 13 of them with SpiceJet and five with Jet Airways. Jet’s Max planes are grounded because of non-payment of lease rent, while SpiceJet said it had suspended the aircraft’s operations after the DGCA’s decision. 

ALSO READ: India bans Boeing 737 Max 8 planes after Ethiopian Airlines crash

The civil aviation secretary has been directed to hold an emergency meeting with all airlines to prepare a contingency plan to avoid inconvenience to passengers. “Efforts are already on to minimise the impact on passenger movement as their convenience is important," Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said. 

The European Union's aviation safety agency EASA suspended all flights in the bloc by Boeing's 737-8 and 737-9 aircraft. It also suspended “all commercial flights performed by third-country operators into, within or out of the EU of the above-mentioned models".

ALSO READ: Ethiopian Airlines crash: UK bans Boeing 737 Max planes from airspace

The move came after Britain, Germany and France joined a number of nations to suspend operations of the aircraft, and put pressure on the United States to follow suit.

Boeing, the world's biggest planemaker, which has seen billions of dollars wiped off its market value, said it understood the countries’ actions but retained “full confidence" in the 737 MAX and had safety as its priority. It also said the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) had not demanded any further action related to 737 MAX operations.

The cause of Sunday's crash, which followed another disaster with a 737 MAX five months ago in Indonesia that killed 189 people, remains unknown. On Sunday, a 737 MAX 8 aircraft operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed near Addis Ababa, killing 157 people, including four Indians.

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