Air Canada

Transport Minister ‘would fly’ on Max 8s despite consumer worries

An Air Canada Boeing 737 Max 8 departs Vancouver International Airport (photo: Brett Ballah).

Canada’s Transport minister says more information is need before taking action on Boeing’s 737 Max 8 aircraft, despite a growing number of airlines and countries grounding the type in the wake of two fatal crashes.

“I can assure you we are deploying all of our efforts to discover the cause of this accident,” Marc Garneau told reporters in Montreal. “There are all kinds of possibilities that could explain why the accident happened.

“It is important not to take any premature decisions because there are all kinds of possible causes of the accident and we will have to find out the cause before taking any action.”

Garneau said Canadian regulators were working closely with their counterparts at the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, which have both dispatched investigators to Ethiopia.

“I am comfident we are following up on this very, very carefyully and with all of the priority that is necessary to discover what the cause of the accident was and then I will not hesitate to take any action necessary when we discover what that cause is.”

Garneau said it’s important not to jump to any conclusions, given the Boeing plane has safely flown millions of miles.

The 737 Max 8 series is one of the fastest-selling aircraft in the world. There are approximately 370 Max 8s flying around the world, including 41 in Canada. Air Canada has a growing fleet of 24 Max 8s, Westjet 13, and Sunwing four.

Questions were raised after an Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 crashed Sunday just after takeoff from Addis Ababa, killing 157 people, including 18 Canadians. That came less than five months after a Lion Air crash in Indonesia, killing 189 people.

Although it is too early to determine whether the crashes are related, to have two crashes of the same type of aircraft in such close proximity is extremely rare, raising concerns among the flying public.

South African carrier Comair became the latest airline to ground its Max 8 fleet, following in the footsteps of China’s aviation authorities, Indonesian authorities, Ethiopian Airlines, and Cayman Airways.

Garneau pointed out that Canada updated pilot training guidelines in the wake of the Lion Air crash to know how to respond to Angle of Attack sensor failures. “Our pilots are some of the best-trained in the world,” he said.

“The safety of the aviation industry is of paramount importance to ACPA pilots,” said Chris Praught, Communications Manager for the Air Canada Pilots Association in an e-mail. “No-one is more invested in the wellbeing of passengers and crew than those who operate the aircraft upon which they fly.

“ACPA calls on Minister Garneau and Transport Canada to take proactive action to ensure the safety of the Canadian traveling public.”

In response to growing concern, the FAA said it would issue what’s called a “Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community” Monday afternoon.

If the Max 8 were to be grounded, problems would be particularly acute for Air Canada, which has a total of 61 of the type on order. It will form the backbone of the domestic fleet as older Airbus aircraft are retired.

“I would without any hesitation board an aircraft of that type at this time,” said Garneau. “Flying is a very safe way to travel in this country, the statistics show that.”

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Categories: Air Canada, Safety, Westjet

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