European aviation watchdog EASA has said it is likely to conduct flight tests of Boeing 737 MAX planes later this month, amid many airlines awaiting regulatory approvals to restart operations of these aircraft.
In 2019, regulators banned flying MAX planes after two fatal accidents involving the aircraft. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) also ordered grounding of these planes in India.
SpiceJet is the only domestic carrier having MAX aircraft in its fleet. The budget airline grounded 13 such planes in March last year.
A European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) spokesperson said the regulator is working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing to ensure the safety of 737 MAX planes.
"As part of this, EASA will indeed conduct flight tests of the aircraft. Our current expectation is that these will take place some time later this month," the spokesperson told PTI earlier this week.
However, the spokesperson did not specifically mention whether the flight tests would be conducted jointly with the FAA. Earlier this month, a senior airline official said flight tests of MAX aircraft were likely to be done by the EASA and the FAA together possibly in the third week of January.
Queries sent to Boeing and SpiceJet on December 31 regarding MAX planes remained unanswered.
On December 31, an FAA spokesperson said the regulator is following a thorough process for returning the Boeing 737 MAX to passenger service.
"We continue to work with other international aviation safety regulators to review the proposed changes to the aircraft. Our first priority is safety, and we have set no timeframe for when the work will be completed," the spokesperson had told PTI.
In December, Boeing announced the suspension of 737 MAX production starting in January due to certification moving into 2020.
Since worldwide grounding in 2019, Boeing has been working on addressing the problems with MAX aircraft.
Jet Airways, which was shuttered in April 2019, was also operating these planes. The airline had five such aircraft in its fleet, though out of operations, at the time of domestic regulator banning B737 Max flying in the country.
In March 2019, a Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines' 737 MAX aircraft crashed after taking off from Addis Ababa and killed 157 people. The fatal incident came less than five months after a 737 MAX plane, operated by Lion Air, crashed, killing over 180 people in Indonesia in October 2018.