Safety

Canada grounds Boeing Max aircraft

Canada has banned Boeing Max flights in or over Canada.

The move affects 37 aircraft flown by Air Canada and Westjet, and takes effect immediately. The airlines had planned a total of 90 Max flights Wednesday. The greatest impact is expected to be felt on flights to sun destinations in Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean, where the Max offers a greater range than comparable narrow-body aircraft.

The crisis engulfing the Max 8 follows the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 on Sunday that killed 157 people. It has led to an unusual and very public breakdown of trust among leading aviation regulators, that left North American officials increasingly isolated in supporting Max operations. Canada has now joined regulators in much of the world grounding the aircraft.

“Canada has an enviable record in civil aviation,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau told a news conference in Ottawa. He said the decision was made after new information was received Wednesday morning.

“The information has to do with satellite tracking data,” said Garneau. He indicated the new data came from sources used by air traffic controllers around the world.

He said Canadian experts compared takeoff data with an earlier Lion Air crash and found enough similarities to warrant grounding all Max aircraft in the country.

“What we looked at this morning was the profile in about the first 10 minutes, and we also drew up the same profile of the Lion Air one in Indonesia. That’s all we looked at,” said Garneau. “You’re not normally exposed to vertical fluctuations.”

Both planes pitched up and down before crashing. In the Lion Air crash, investigators have pointed to a faulty Angle of Attack indicator that showed the doomed plane’s nose was too high. The indicator and related software were installed on Max aircraft as a result of new, larger engines being repositioned on the newly-designed Boeing 737 models changing the flight characteristics.

Both Air Canada and Westjet announced they would immediately comply with the ban.

“We are working to rebook impacted customers as soon as possible,” said Air Canada, “but given the magnitude of our 737 MAX operations which on average carry nine to twelve thousand customers per day, customers can expect delays in rebooking and in reaching Air Canada call centres and we appreciate our customers’ patience.”

“We have 162 aircraft or more than 92 per cent of our overall fleet that remain in service,” said Westjet. “Guests can book with confidence knowing that we continue to fly throughout the network with the safety of guests and employees at the forefront.”

“Yes it’s unfortunate, but we must put safety at the top of our agenda,” said Garneau. “There will be some disruption, there’s no question about that.”

MAP: Below is a map of planned Boeing 737 Max 8 operations for Westjet and Air Canada on Wednesday March 13, 2019. Click on individual routes or cities for details.

“The tragic accident … has really touched the hearts of many, many Canadians,” said Garneau. “I want them to be able to fly with confidence.”

Garneau had until Wednesday followed the Federal Aviation Administration‘s lead, and he said despite the decision to ground the Max series, he still has faith in his American counterparts.

Sunwing grounded its four Max 8 planes late Tuesday, arguing it couldn’t land in a growing number of countries, but stressing the decision was not due to safety concerns.

That move left Air Canada and Westjet as the two Canadian airlines flying their fleet of 37 Max aircraft. Together, the airlines planned 90 Max 8 flights on Wednesday.

Garneau said it would be up to passengers and airlines to try to find a solution to the grounding. “These things happen,” he said.

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