An Air Canada Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft arriving from Toronto prepares to land at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Tuesday, March 12, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Canada gives OK to Boeing 737 Max changes but planes still grounded

Canada gives OK to Boeing 737 Max changes but planes still grounded

MONTREAL — Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft is a step closer to returning to Canadian skies, nearly two years after being grounded due to technical issues that resulted in two deadly crashes involving foreign airlines.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau told reporters Thursday that Transport Canada has approved design changes to the plane, among them allowing pilots to disable a faulty warning system that was found to be central to the crashes in 2018 and 2019.

“Today is the validation, which means that we recognize the modifications that have been made to fix the problem with the Max 8,” Garneau said. “However, there’s still another step to take, and that will be done in January, when we will, as Canada, emit what we call an airworthiness directive.”

After the government issues the directive, airlines will be permitted to fly the Boeing Max again in Canada, provided that they meet Ottawa’s criteria for procedures and training.

The government’s announcement comes several weeks after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration cleared the Max for flight, as long as carriers implement certain design fixes and provide specialized training to pilots.

Transport Canada said at the time that its independent review process would impose requirements on the Max that go above and beyond those by U.S. authorities.

In particular, Transport Canada will require that Max pilots in Canada be allowed to disable a “loud and intrusive” warning system that will reduce workload for pilots in the event of a problem, the agency said in a statement Thursday.

Garneau said Canadians who are still worried about flying aboard the aircraft should know that Canada has played a leadership role in contributing to the fix being put into place.

“This plane has been looked at very, very carefully because we want to make sure that we absolutely fix it,” he said. “We feel very confident that we have done our homework properly.”

Countries around the world have been conducting independent review processes regarding whether to recertify the Max for flight.

The planes were grounded worldwide in March 2019 after two crashes, one of which killed 18 Canadians in Ethiopia. Subsequent investigations found that the crashes were caused by a faulty sensor that pushed the plane’s nose downward in flight.

Morgan Bell, a spokeswoman for WestJet, which has 13 Max aircraft in its fleet, said its planes will only return to service once they have met the requirements and the airline is certain that they are safe.

“This validation is an important first step in the eventual return to service of this aircraft in Canadian airspace,” Bell said. “There are remaining steps to take and measures to put in place before Transport Canada officially reopens the skies for passenger service.”

Pascale Dery, a spokeswoman for Air Canada, said the carrier will be finalizing its plans for returning the Max to service once regulators approve it to operate in Canada.

Sunwing Airlines said it was working closely with Transport Canada to ensure its four Max airplanes can return to service.

Several family members of Canadians who died in the Max crashes denounced the government’s decision on Thursday, saying in a statement that the aircraft is still dangerous.

John Gradek, a lecturer at McGill University and the head of its Global Aviation Leadership Program, said the additional changes to the Max that Canada will require are intended to ensure that pilots aren’t overwhelmed by sirens and other noises in case of an issue with the aircraft.

“What Transport Canada has done, which goes above and beyond what the FAA has done, is tone down the alerts,” Gradek said.

Gradek said the approval will be a boon for airlines, who, since the grounding orders, have had to replace the Max with older, less profitable airplanes.

The aircraft’s grounding caused significant headaches for WestJet, Sunwing, and Air Canada, which grounded 24 planes, delayed delivery of 26 and cancelled an order for 11 planes.

Airlines have suspended schedules, rerouted flights and faced higher costs from leasing aircraft that are less fuel-efficient.

They’ve also reached agreement with Boeing for undisclosed compensation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 17, 2020.

Jon Victor, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version stated that the Max was grounded in January.

Business

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE - This file photo provided by Leonid Volkov and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, right, are seen in Germany in a Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, handout photo published to social media. The chief of staff to the imprisoned Russian president critic Alexei Navalny is calling on Ottawa to impose new sanctions on who he descripted as “Vladimir Putin’s oligarchs.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, Leonid Volkov
Canada must sanction Vladimir Putin’s oligarchs: Alexei Navalny’s chief of staff

Navalny was arrested on Jan. 17 upon returning from Germany

Ronald Smith, a Canadian on death row in the United States. is shown at the state prison in Deer Lodge, Mont., on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Graveland
Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)
UPDATED: AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Justice minister promises to get tough with those ignoring public health orders

Max Parrot of Canada competes in the men’s snowboard big air final at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. Parrot has won the Comeback of the Year honour at the Laureus World Sports Awards. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canadian snowboarder Max Parrot wins Laureus World Sports Award for comeback

Parrot beat out former Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith

This Nov. 22, 2015 file photo shows Justin Bieber at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles. Bieber’s world tour is facing another setback as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. The Stratford, Ont.-raised pop singer is pushing dozens of tour dates including stops in three Canadian cities.	THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File
Justin Bieber postpones Canadian summer tour dates until 2022

52-date world tour will now kick off Feb. 18, 2022

LtE bug
Letter: Security company can help with shelter

Why don’t we leave Safe Harbour temporary shelter where it is and… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: Good job on K-6 curriculum

Many are questioning the quality of the draft K-6 curriculum. It amazes… Continue reading

Treena Mielke
COVID becomes all too real when someone you love is ‘positive’

The third wave of the pandemic is hitting us hard. It is… Continue reading

Wizards beat Raptors in OT, Toronto playoff bid nearly over

Wizards beat Raptors in OT, Toronto playoff bid nearly over

Most Read