The aviation regulator DGCA has imposed a fine of INR 10 lakh on SpiceJet for training its Boeing 737 Max aircraft’s pilots on a faulty simulator as it could have adversely impacted flight safety, sources said on Monday, May 30.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had last month barred 90 SpiceJet pilots at a faulty facility at CAE Simulation Training Pvt Ltd (CSTPL), Greater Noida on March 30 from operating the Max aircraft after finding them not properly trained.
After barring the pilots, the regulator had issued a show-cause notice to the airline, sources told PTI. The response sent by the airline was not found satisfactory.
“The training being imparted by the airline could have adversely affected flight safety and hence was nullified,” one of the sources stated.
Therefore, the DGCA has imposed a penalty of INR 10 lakh on SpiceJet for using a faulty simulator to train their Max aircraft’s pilots, sources mentioned.
According to a senior DGCA official, when the 90 pilots were sent for training at the CAE Simulation Training Pvt Ltd in Noida, the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was not working properly on the simulator.
“A part of the MCAS system, the ‘stick shaker’ that vibrates the control column and makes a loud noise when the jet risks losing lift, was not working properly in the simulator at the time of training these pilots,” the official said.
Another industry insider aware of the matter said that at the time of training, Boeing was still in the process of installing its new updated MCAS system at the Noida training facility when the SpiceJet pilots were sent for training.
Boeing had opened this facility in 2020 for training pilots to operate the 737 Max. CSTPL has only approved the 737 MAX simulators in India.
This was installed by Boeing as part of a compensation package provided to SpiceJet due to the business loss caused by the two-year grounding of the aircraft.
Scheduled surveillance checks and surprise audits are done by the regulator to find inefficiencies in the safety system of airlines, airports, flying training organisations and simulators to find deficiencies and implement corrective measures.
The system was dysfunctional since March 17 due to a faulty component that CSTPL imports from abroad. Hence, all co-pilots who have done simulator training will have to undergo the extra two hours of training once again.
The DGCA official added that proper pilot training was part of the aviation regulator’s conditions for lifting the ban on the Boeing 737 Max in India after the planes were grounded in India on March 13, 2019, following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max aircraft near Addis Ababa.
Almost a year before the Ethiopian Airlines crash, a Lion Air Flight from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang also had crashed.
The ban on the planes was lifted in August 2021 after the DGCA was satisfied with the software upgrade implemented by Boeing in each of the Max aircraft. SpiceJet is the only Indian airline that has the Max aircraft in its fleet.
Akasa Air, the new airline backed by ace investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala and aviation veterans Aditya Ghosh and Vinay Dube, had in November last year signed a deal with Boeing to purchase 72 Max planes. Akasa Air has not received any of these planes as yet.