In this Sept. 30, 2020, file photo, a Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Elaine Thompson

Ottawa to keep Boeing Max aircraft grounded for now, despite US decision

Ottawa to keep Boeing Max aircraft grounded for now, despite US decision

The Boeing 737 Max aircraft will not be returning to Canadian skies just yet, despite being cleared for takeoff by U.S. regulators.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Wednesday that Canada will impose different requirements than the U.S. before it lifts the grounding orders for the plane, including additional procedures on the flight deck and pre-flight and differences in training for flight operators.

“Our government remains committed to keeping Canadians, the travelling public, and the transportation system safe and secure,” Garneau said, adding that he expects the validation process to conclude “very soon.”

Garneau’s remarks followed a U.S. announcement that the Boeing 737 Max, which was involved in two mass casualty crashes in recent years, will be permitted to fly again once Boeing makes changes to the software and computer systems on each plane and provides training to pilots in flight simulators.

The planes have been grounded since March 2019 following the crashes of a Lion Air flight near Jakarta on Oct. 29, 2018, and an Ethiopian Airlines flight on March 10, 2019, killing a total of 346 people.

Among the casualties from the Ethiopian Airlines flight were 18 Canadians, including a professor at Carleton University in Ottawa; a conservationist from Orillia, Ont.; and an Edmonton woman and her five-year-old daughter.

A lengthy investigation by the U.S. Congress prompted criticism of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for setting lax standards in approving the aircraft to fly and of Boeing executives, who Congress said compromised safety to maximize profits. The scrutiny led to the resignation of Boeing’s CEO, Dennis Muilenberg, who stepped down in December 2019.

Investigators found that both crashes were caused by faulty sensors that pushed the aircraft’s nose downward in flight. Boeing had devised anti-stall software to compensate for the plane’s tendency to tilt nose-up, but the system prevented pilots from regaining control when the sensors malfunctioned.

Government agencies around the world, including Transport Canada, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the FAA have been conducting independent processes for deciding whether to recertify the plane to fly.

Morgan Bell, a spokeswoman for WestJet, which operates 13 MAX aircraft, said the company’s planes will only return to service once it is certain they are safe.

“The work by Transport Canada and other independent regulators around the globe, in combination with our own preparation, processes and due diligence, gives us confidence in returning these aircraft to service once Transport Canada opens the skies to the Max,” Bell said.

Sunwing Airlines, which has four Max aircraft in its fleet, said it is working closely with Transport Canada to address the factors needed for the Max to return to service safely. And Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for Air Canada, which operates 24 MAX aircraft, said it is waiting for Canadian regulators to approve the aircraft before finalizing plans for returning it to service.

Canada likely wants to require training procedures that will prevent confusion by pilots in case a similar incident occurs, said John Gradek, a lecturer at McGill University and the head of its Global Aviation Leadership Program. He added that when the Max was first approved, Canada relied on the FAA’s approval for its own certification, rather than conducting a thorough review of its own — normal protocol, he said, since the plane was manufactured in the U.S.

“I think Canada got burned the first time around,” Gradek said. “I think Canada really wants to make sure that [the Max] does meet the Canadian specifications, that Canada really wants to exert its sovereignty on certification.”

Robert Kokonis, president of Toronto-based consulting firm AirTrav Inc., said that based on conversations he has had with people at Transport Canada, he expected a decision on the Max before the end of this year.

Once the plane is approved to fly in Canada, Kokonis said, it would be up to the airlines to sell the public on its increased safety features, but he added that he expected consumers to shed any reservations they may have about flying on the Max after about a year with no accidents.

“There’s been so much oversight of this aircraft, it will likely end up being the safest aircraft in the history of commercial aviation,” Kokonis said. “On that basis, I would not hesitate to get on board that aircraft as soon as it’s rolled back out into service again.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2020.

With files from The Associated Press

Companies in this story: (TSX:AC)

Jon Victor, The Canadian Press

Boeing Max

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

Just Posted

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau announces donation to Duke of Edinburgh’s award ahead of funeral

Canada will donate $200,000 to the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award as… Continue reading

Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Science) Will Amos responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says the fact that a screenshot of him in the nude was leaked to the media sends a troubling message about the corrosive state of politics in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Canada’s naked MP speaks out: leaked photo sends message ‘anything goes’ in politics

OTTAWA — The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $10 million jackpot… Continue reading

Opinion
Opinion: Canada’s self-esteem needs Trump

Well, it was fun while it lasted. For four years, with Donald… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Shenanigans on the links

It must be something about my Scottish heritage but I seem to… Continue reading

Most Read