General aviation

Aeromexico suspends Max 8 operations

Aeromexico planes at their gates at Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City. (photo: Aeromexico)

Aeromexico has become the latest airline to suspend its Boeing 737 Max 8 operations “until more thorough information on the investigation of the flight ET302 accident can be provided.”

Aeromexico made the decision in the wake of an Ethiopian airlines crash Sunday that killed 157 people, including 18 Canadians. It was the second fatal crash of a Max 8 in less than five months.

The airline confirmed the decision in a statement.

“The airline reiterates that it has full confidence in the safety of the fleet and that during the last year, it has operated the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in safe, reliable, and efficient conditions.

“Nevertheless, Aeromexico has decided to temporarily suspend the operation of its six Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.”

Aeromexico, which flies to Montreal, Toronto,Vancouver and will launch a route to Calgary this summer, joined a growing list of airlines in China, Indonesia, Ethiopia and Brasil suspending operations of their newest Boeing aircraft.

It was joined by Aerolineas Argentinas, which grounded its five Max aircraft.

Air Canada, Westjet and Sunwing all operate Max 8 aircraft, though none has suspended operations of the type.

Canada’s Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, said Monday he would not hesitate to fly in a Max 8, though officials are following developments and working closely with their American counterparts.

“I am confident we are following up on this very, very carefully 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,” he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration in the United States is the lead agency and declined Monday to order any changes to the Max 8, advising operators not to jump to any conclusions. At the same time, Boeing confirmed it is planning a software update to the 387 Max 8 aircraft flying around the world.

“Boeing has been working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration on development, planning and certification of the software enhancement, and it will be deployed across the 737 MAX fleet in the coming weeks,” the company said in a statement.

Boeing said the improvements will target the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, a system designed in response to new engines on the Max aircraft that shifted the plane’s centre of gravity. The system helps pilots control the pitch of the nose on takeoff to prevent stalls.

“The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority.”

Boeing expects to make the changes mandatory in April. In the meantime, pilots, if they need to, can override sensor inputs and fly the aircraft manually.