Anxious Indian regulator wants to train pilots for Lion Air-like emergencies

Mistakes were made.
Mistakes were made.
Image: Reuters/Thomas White
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An anxious Indian aviation regulator has sought simulator training in potential exigencies for pilots flying Boeing’s 737 Max 8 aircraft.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) yesterday (Dec. 06) said this training will involve the replication of the possible events that led to the crash of a Lion Air flight on Oct. 29. The Indonesian low-cost carrier’s jet had plunged into the Java Sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta, killing 189 passengers.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 model has been under global scrutiny ever since.

At least six of these planes are in use in India right now—five by Jet Airways and one by SpiceJet. Both the airlines have also placed orders for over 200 more.

The DGCA, in a statement, said that it has taken this decision to train pilots “as an interim precautionary safety measure, till such time Boeing issues more detailed information or clarification.”

However, it has reiterated that Indian airlines have not experienced any major issues with the Max 737 till now.

The regulator has, nevertheless, directed Jet Airways and SpiceJet to land their Boeing 737 Max planes at the nearest airport if the planes show any problem with their onboard maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) — a  software that prevents aircraft from stalling.

The MCAS system had come into focus during the investigations into the Lion Air crash.

“In case of any snag or feared snag with the MCAS, pilots will revert to manual trimming (not depend on or use MCAS) and then land at the nearest suitable airport. If any repairs are carried out on MCAS of a Boeing 737 Max, that aircraft should first do a verification flight (without passengers) and after that begin commercial flights with passengers,” the DGCA said on Dec. 05.

On Nov. 06, Boeing also issued a safety bulletin to airlines and pilots operating this aircraft.

The DGCA is also discussing the plane’s safety issues with various stakeholders. It will issue another set of guidelines once the final probe report on the Lion Air crash and the necessary corrective measures are announced by the Indonesian authorities.