- Passenger safety remains top concern: aviation ministry
- Move comes after number of countries grounded Boeing 737 MAX 8
- Jet Airways and SpiceJet operate the new model of the 737
India's aviation watchdog DGCA has decided to immediately ground the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, days after an Ethiopian Airline crash killed 157 people, including four Indians. The planes will stay grounded till appropriate modifications and safety measures are undertaken to ensure their safe operations, the Civil Aviation Ministry announced on Tuesday evening.
"As always, passenger safety remains our top priority. We continue to consult closely with regulators around the world, airlines, and aircraft manufacturers to ensure passenger safety," Civil Aviation Ministry said on Twitter.
New Delhi's decision comes after a number of countries grounded the new model of the US aircraft manufacturer's best-selling 737.
Among Indian carriers, SpiceJet has 13 jets of the model 8 variant in its 75-strong fleet while Jet Airways has five such aircraft.
Following the DGCA's decision, both the airlines have have suspended the operation of their 737 MAX 8 jets.
"Safety and security of our passengers, crew and operations are of utmost importance to us," SpiceJet said. The airline, earlier on Tuesday, had defended the jets and called them "highly sophisticated".
Many countries, including South Korea, Singapore and China have grounded the jets following the second fatal accident of the aircraft in just five months. In October, a Lion Air plane crashed into the sea off the Indonesian capital of Jakarta 13 minutes after take-off, killing all 189 onboard.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation or DGCA had on Monday ordered additional maintenance checks for the planes but stopped short of ordering their grounding. It also directed Indian carriers to ensure that pilots have 1,000 hours and co-pilots 500 hours of flying experience on the 737 MAX 8.
SpiceJet said it had implemented the additional "precautionary measures" and was "actively engaged" with Boeing and the Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
US regulators on Monday ordered Boeing to make urgent improvements to the best-selling jet involved in the fatal Ethiopia plane crash -- but ruled out grounding the fleet as investigators worked to piece together the aircraft's final moments while US carriers appear to maintain confidence in the manufacturer.
All 737 MAX flights have been stopped in Europe.