Canadian Manufacturing

Government raises new questions about approval of Boeing 737 Max

Transport Canada test pilots voiced concerns about a key flight-control system three years prior, documents reveal

March 13, 2020  The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Internal government documents about the Boeing 737 Max are raising new questions about Canada’s aircraft approval process.

The documents, made public at a parliamentary hearing on March 12, reveal that Transport Canada test pilots voiced concerns about a key flight-control system going back more than three years before system flaws led to worldwide grounding of the plane.

The department’s queries about the Max jet’s anti-stall system emerged in a 2016 debriefing, but direct answers were never provided by Boeing Co. or the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, resulting in certification the next year despite the questions remaining “open.”

The plane’s MCAS software, which automatically pushes the nose of the aircraft down in certain circumstances, was identified as a key factor in two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed all 346 people on board, including 18 Canadians, and triggered a grounding of the jet in March 2019.


Related: Air Canada cancels order for 11 Boeing 737 Max jets amid ongoing questions

Several weeks after the first crash in Oct. 2018, Transport Canada pushed Boeing for more information about a potential defect that could have “catastrophic” consequences, but allowed the aircraft to keep flying.

Under a longstanding bilateral agreement, Canada outsources much of its aircraft review process to the U.S. regulator, which in turn had passed on part of its oversight to Boeing itself.

On March 12, Conservative MP Todd Doherty asked Transport Minister Marc Garneau at the federal transport committee hearing why the plane was certified given the concerns. In a heated exchange, Garneau said the issues raised by Transport Canada simply amounted to questions, and that Doherty failed to understand the approval system.

Canadian regulators now plan to conduct their own review of changes Boeing is making to the anti-stall system.