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

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

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.

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

Just Posted

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
UPDATE: Central Alberta cafe owner arrested after anti-restriction protest

The owner of a central Alberta cafe, which was the site of… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer now has 911 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre's expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital ICU admissions stable, but rising, says surgeon

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s intensive care unit is in better… Continue reading

Alberta recorded a single-day record of over 57,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta hits daily record of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Central zone has administered 111,735 doses of the COVID-19

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, is setting off a social media reaction with his calls to stop non essential shopping, such as "buying sandals at Costco", with this photo of his worn sandals, which he published to social media on Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dr. Robert Strang, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Nova Scotia’s top doctor sparks meme with caution on non-essential shopping

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s top doctor has launched a social media meme… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Canada's chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Tam warns that full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Canada’s chief public health officer reminded Canadians on Saturday that even those… Continue reading

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour conducts drills during NHL hockey training camp in Morrisville, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
NHL relaxing virus protocols for vaccinated playoff teams

The NHL is relaxing virus protocols for teams that reach a threshold… Continue reading

Canada skip Kerri Einarson directs her teammates against Sweden in a qualification game at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson eliminated at curling worlds after 8-3 loss to Sweden’s Hasselborg

CALGARY — Canada’s Kerri Einarson was eliminated at the world women’s curling… Continue reading

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman didn’t expect to get hit with a double whammy at… Continue reading

A courtroom at the Edmonton Law Courts building, in Edmonton on Friday, June 28, 2019. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the Canadian justice system warn a number of legal experts. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench announced Sunday it would adjourn all scheduled trials across the province for at least 10-weeks limiting hearings to only emergency or urgent matters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton mother found guilty of manslaughter in death of five-year-old girl

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman was found guilty Friday of manslaughter in… Continue reading

A Statistics Canada 2016 Census mailer sits on the key board of a laptop after arriving in the mail at a residence in Ottawa, May 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Statistics Canada sees more demand to fill out census online during pandemic

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the response to the census is higher… Continue reading

Travellers, who are not affected by new quarantine rules, arrive at Terminal 3 at Pearson Airport in Toronto, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Ottawa will create a new digital platform to help in processing immigration applications more quickly and efficiently after COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for a faster shift to a digital immigration system, the immigration department said. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ottawa to create new system to tackle delays in processing immigration applications

Ottawa says it will create a new digital platform to help process… Continue reading

Most Read