Aviation News

Boeing 737 Max likely to impact expansion of Air India Express, ET Infra

Tata group’s expansion plan for its low-cost airline Air India Express is likely to be delayed due to a fresh manufacturing problem with the Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

The group, which had ordered 190 737 Max aircraft, expected immediate delivery of 50 of those this year that were built for Chinese airlines. However, sources aware of the issue with 737 Max said all aircraft manufactured after 2019 must undergo retrofitting impacting the delivery schedule.

The manufacturing problem with the 737 Max involves fittings that were incorrectly installed on the fuselage made by Spirit AeroSystems- one of Boeing’s primary suppliers.

“It is an issue where Spirit used a non-standardised method on the aft fuselage section of certain models of the 737 Max. So, it impacts all aircraft manufactured after 2019, which will need to be retrofitted,” said one of the sources, adding that the exercise will take around 24 hours on each aircraft. SpiceJet, which has 13 737 Max in its fleet, will not be impacted as all its aircraft were manufactured before 2019.

India’s civil aviation regulator said it was in communication with Boeing and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US regulator on the issue.

Boeing said the retrofitting process will impact near-term 737 MAX deliveries. “This is not an immediate safety of flight issue and the in-service fleet can continue operating safely. However, the issue will likely affect a significant number of undelivered 737 MAX airplanes, both in production and in storage. We have notified the FAA of the issue and are working to conduct inspections and replace the non-conforming fittings where necessary,” the US aerospace giant said in a statement adding that it will give guidance on delivery schedules to customers in the next few weeks.

Air India Express had significant expansion plans after it completed a merger with AirAsia India. With the fresh aircraft deliveries this year, the airline would have become a formidable force in low cost space in the domestic market.

Air India Express didn’t comment on the issue. However, India’s newest airline Akasa Air’s fleet plan is unlikely to get impacted due to the manufacturing defect

The airline had planned for nine deliveries in FY24, which it expects to be fulfilled as there is enough lead time between the next phase of its aircraft delivery.

The airline currently has 19 aircraft and the 20th will join the fleet soon. But after that, the next phase of delivery will begin only in September when carrier expects Boeing to sort out the issue.

The airline has expanded at a rapid pace and will reach the milestone of 20 aircraft in less than a year making it eligible to mount international flights. Last month, Akasa Air CEO Vinay Dube said the airline was planning to start international flights by the end of this year.

  • Published On Apr 15, 2023 at 08:01 AM IST

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