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'All options on the table', but no plans to ground 737 Max 8 in Canada: Garneau

Last Updated Mar 12, 2019 at 11:21 am PDT

Transport Minister Marc Garneau answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Summary

Growing number of airlines, countries have decided to ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes, but Canada has not followed suit

Canada's transport minister says 'all options are on the table' as more countries, airlines ground Boeing 737 Max 8s

MONTREAL – Transport Minister Marc Garneau has cleared his schedule for the day in order to meet with his civil aviation expert panel on how to deal with the issue of Boeing’s 737 Max 8 aircraft, which is being grounded or banned from a growing number of countries.

The 737 Max 8 continues to fly in North American skies, but faces grounding orders or airspace bans from all of Europe as well as Australia, China and other states in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people Sunday.

Garneau said Tuesday that he has no plans to ground Canada’s fleet of 737 Max 8 aircraft, but that “all options are on the table”.

“That could include grounding the planes, but at the same time I will evaluate all possibilities and not jump to conclusions before we can clearly evaluate the situation,” Garneau said, stressing he would not “be influenced by emotions.”

The Ethiopian Airlines crash, which killed everyone on board — including 18 Canadians — has raised concerns over parallels to a Lion Air crash of the same model of aircraft in Indonesia that killed 189 people last October.

Earlier Tuesday, authorities from the U.K., France, Germany and Ireland announced grounding orders or airspace bans on the aircraft. They were followed by similar orders from the Netherlands and Poland. Turkish Airlines also announced Tuesday it is grounding all Boeing 737 Max aircraft in its fleet until further notice.

A grounding order in Canada would prove costly for Canadian airlines, says Karl Moore, a professor at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management.

“It would have a considerable impact on both of them, because that’s a lot of flights every day,” he said. “And they’re new planes that don’t require a lot of maintenance.

“You’d have to cancel some flights. You’d try to use other planes, which are suboptimal. A Q-400 is too small. You could use two big planes, which means that you’re wasting money on fuel and you’re not making money.”

Commercial pilot group ask for proactive action from the feds

Two groups representing Canadian pilots who fly the Boeing 737 MAX 8 are making different calls as the debate grows over whether to ground the planes.

The Airline Pilots Association, which represents WestJet pilots, tells NEWS 1130 it is cautioning against speculation about what caused the crash.

The group says it stands ready to assist in any way possible to make air transportation safer.

Meantime, the Air Canada Pilots Association says safety is of paramount importance to its pilots, and it wants to see something done to ensure the safety of the travelling public.

When asked if that would include grounding the planes a spokesperson says they are not calling for any specific action.

There are a total of 37 max 8 planes in Air Canada and WestJet fleets.

Flyers looking to avoid Boeing 737 model find little love from airlines

Airlines are also confronting passengers who want to re-book their flights to avoid the vexed plane.

Flight Centre travel agency said Canadian airlines are not waiving flight-change or cancellation fees for passengers who want to switch to another aircraft.

The stance from Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd. — which collectively tout 24 Max 8s in their fleets — comes amid a wave of requests from worried travellers so far excluded from goodwill policies.

Air Canada and WestJet did not respond to requests for comment on fee waiving.

“We continue to monitor the situation and based on current info, and recommendations by government safety regulators, Transport Canada, the FAA, and the manufacturer, we will continue to operate our normal B737 schedule and our current re-booking policies remain in place,” Air Canada said in a tweet Tuesday.

Rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday, March 11, 2019. A spokesman says Ethiopian Airlines has grounded all its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft as a safety precaution, following the crash of one of its planes in which 157 people were killed. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)

At least one of the airline’s flights has been affected. Air Canada Flight 860, scheduled to arrive in Halifax at 3 p.m. and return to London at 9:21 p.m. tonight, was cancelled.

Garneau said Monday that his department is working with the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority to determine if action is required.

Boeing said late Monday the FAA has told the U.S.-based aircraft manufacturer it must install safety-related software updates to the 737 Max 8s.

Flag on Parliament Hill lowered

With the country mourning the loss of those killed in Sunday’s crash, the flag on top of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill has been lowered to fly at half mast.

This comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and offered his condolences for the death of 32 Kenyans.

On Sunday, Trudeau said he was “deeply saddened by the terrible plane crash… that claimed the lives of 157 people, including 18 Canadian citizens.”

He also said the government was providing consular assistance and working closely with local authorities to gather information.

“We join the international community in mourning the loss of so many lives, including those countries who have also lost citizens in this devastating crash,” he said.

The flag on Parliament Hill is generally lowered to mourn a significant loss for the country. Eighteen Canadians were among the 157 people killed.

 

Cause of deadly crash still unknown

As Boeing investigators attend the scene of Sunday’s deadly crash alongside National Transportation Safety Board members from the U.S., some experts are speculating what may have caused the plane to go down shortly after taking off.

Some believe the crash may have been caused by stall avoidance software that was added to the 737 MAX 8 that automatically pushes the nose down to avoid an aerodynamic stall.

Pilots in China have reported this action is happening when it shouldn’t in some instances.