Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020

Canadian airlines say it’s too early to speculate on future of Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft

Canada’s largest airlines say they do not have a timeline for when the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft will be added back into rotation.

The aircraft was banned from Canadian airspace in March after two deadly crashes involving the same model of jetliner occurred within six months.

Canadian airlines have had to make a number of adjustments to their schedules in order to accommodate the grounding of their MAX fleets.

Air Canada has adjusted its schedule to the end of May and has taken its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft out of rotation until at least July 1.

“At this point, we do not know as Boeing is still preparing the fix and then a number of regulators will have to approve it,” Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick told Global News in an email on Friday.

WestJet, like Air Canada, says it is too early to speculate as to when the MAX aircraft’s software will be updated.

“It would be premature for WestJet to speculate on potential timelines regarding Boeing’s proposed software updates to the MAX,” WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell said in an email to Global News.

“Should we be directed by our regulators to implement any such changes or associated training, we will absolutely take the proper steps to do so.”

Similarly, Westjet has made adjustments to its schedule but says the company is “working diligently” to ensure that the impact of the aircraft groundings is minimal.

WestJet says its schedules have been fully updated with the removal of 13 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft through June, but schedule changes may still occur.

The airline has continued to use the Boeing 787 Dreamliners to fly between Calgary and Toronto. With 320 seats on board each aircraft, WestJet says it has allowed the airline to free up other aircraft that would otherwise be flying this route so that they can travel to other destinations.

The airline says that despite the fleet challenges, 98 per cent of the airline’s flights have been completed.

A request for comment was sent to Sunwing Airlines — which has grounded its four Boeing 737 MAX aircraft — however, Global News did not hear back by time of publication.

The investigation into what caused the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which killed 157 people on March 10, is underway.

However, a preliminary report from the investigation confirmed that the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) function was activated during the flight.

The same MCAS function was also activated during the Lion Air Flight 610 crash last October.

Both aircraft had an automated system that pushed the nose of the plane down when sensor readings detected the possibility of an aerodynamic stall, but it now appears that sensors malfunctioned on both planes.

A total of 346 people have been killed as a result of the two incidents.

In a statement, Boeing says a software update for the 737 MAX fleet will be issued worldwide to eliminate the possibility of an unintended MCAS evacuation in the future.

With the new update, flight crews will have the ability to override MCAS and manually control the airplane.

According to Boeing, training materials will also be issued to pilots.

Boeing has vowed to earn back public trust; how exactly that will be done remains to be seen. The software update for the 737 MAX is expected in the coming weeks.

—With files from Jessica Vomiero

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