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Grounded Boeing 737 Max aircraft sit parked at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Wash., on Nov. 17, 2020.

LINDSEY WASSON/Reuters

Transport Minister Marc Garneau says the Boeing 737 Max will not be allowed to carry passengers in Canada’s airspace until changes intended to prevent more fatal crashes are approved by Canadian officials, despite a U.S. move to lift a 20-month flight ban on the commercial jet.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday approved a list of training and software changes Boeing made to the Max after months of intense scrutiny that unearthed the regulator’s weak oversight, upended Boeing’s fortunes and caused untold thousands of flights to be cancelled.

The global fleet of 371 Max aircraft was grounded worldwide in March, 2019, after two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed a total of 346 people, including 18 Canadians, in the space of five months. The crashes were linked to control problems stemming from the plane’s software.

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The FAA detailed software upgrades and training changes Boeing must make in order for it to resume U.S. commercial flights after the longest grounding of an aircraft in commercial aviation history.

Mr. Garneau said on Wednesday that Canadian officials are examining Boeing’s proposed safety changes to the aircraft and are expected to require different flight-deck procedures and training than those set out by the FAA. Canadian officials, rather than adhere to the tradition of rubber stamping country-of-origin approvals, have spent more than a year examining the plane’s control systems and test-flying the aircraft.

Transport Canada officials, along with their counterparts in Europe, Brazil and China, must now approve the changes before the plane – Boeing’s best-seller – can return to the skies in these countries. The independent reviews are a departure from the traditional aircraft-licensing regime, under which the country in which a plane is made certifies it is approved for global use.

Canada and other countries took the unusual steps of conducting independent reviews of the Max design changes amid criticism of the FAA’s friendly ties with Boeing, and the U.S. regulator’s lax approach toward ensuring the safety of the changes made to the model when it was updated and marketed as the Max.

Investigation reports have faulted Boeing and the FAA on the plane’s development and for concealing information about an automatic stabilizing function from pilots, while a U.S. Justice Department criminal probe is continuing. At a U.S. Senate hearing in October, 2019, Boeing executives admitted the plane maker made mistakes in the plane’s design and should have sped up changes to software after the first crash.

Nine civil aviation authorities, including Canada’s, took part in a review of aspects of the Max’s original certification process at the request of the FAA. The group found problems with the FAA’s oversight of changes to the plane, including the anti-stall system linked to the fatal crashes.

Boeing’s Max set to return to skies

Boeing’s 737 Max is to get regulatory approval to return

to service following a nearly 20-month grounding after fatal

crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia killed 346 people

AIRCRAFT DELIVERIES

Boeing

Airbus

863

806

800

763

748

718

688

413

380

111

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Boeing 737 Max

Airbus A320 neo (new engine option)

graphic news, Sources: Airbus, Boeing,

FlightGlobal, Reuters

Boeing’s Max set to return to skies

Boeing’s 737 Max is to get regulatory approval to return to service

following a nearly 20-month grounding after fatal crashes in Ethiopia

and Indonesia killed 346 people

AIRCRAFT DELIVERIES

Boeing

Airbus

May 2017: 737 Max enters service.

First flight is made by Malindo Air –

subsidiary of Indonesian carrier

Lion Air

Oct. 29, 2018: Lion Air 737 Max

crashes killing all 189 people

on board

March 10, 2019: Ethiopian Airlines

737 Max crashes killing all

157 passengers and crew

March 13: Global fleet of 386

737 Max jets grounded

Jan.-Oct. 2020:

Airbus delivers

313 A320 family

aircraft – main

competitor to

737 Max

863

806

800

763

748

718

688

413

380

111

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Boeing 737 Max

Airbus A320 neo (new engine option)

graphic news, Sources: Airbus, Boeing,

FlightGlobal, Reuters

Boeing’s Max set to return to skies

Boeing’s 737 Max is to get regulatory approval to return to service

following a nearly 20-month grounding after fatal crashes in Ethiopia

and Indonesia killed 346 people

AIRCRAFT DELIVERIES

Boeing

Airbus

May 2017: 737 Max enters service.

First flight is made by Malindo Air –

subsidiary of Indonesian carrier

Lion Air

Oct. 29, 2018: Lion Air 737 Max

crashes killing all 189 people

on board

March 10, 2019: Ethiopian Airlines

737 Max crashes killing all

157 passengers and crew

March 13: Global fleet of 386

737 Max jets grounded

Jan.-Oct. 2020:

Airbus delivers

313 A320 family

aircraft – main

competitor to

737 Max

863

806

800

763

748

718

688

413

380

111

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Boeing 737 Max

Airbus A320 neo (new engine option)

graphic news, Sources: Airbus, Boeing, FlightGlobal, Reuters

Mr. Garneau said Canadian officials should finish their work “very soon.”

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“Transport Canada safety experts continue their independent validation process to determine whether to approve the proposed changes to the aircraft,” Mr. Garneau said in a statement. “However, there will be differences between what the FAA has approved today and what Canada will require for its operators. These differences will include additional procedures on the flight deck and preflight, as well as differences in training.”

Eighteen Canadians were killed in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March, 2019, the second of two 737 Max disasters.

Paul Njoroge, a Brampton, Ont., father who lost his wife, three children and mother-in-law in the crash, said the plane should not be allowed to return to the sky if it still relies on the flawed computer system, known as the MCAS, that caused the two disasters. Mr. Njoroge said he can’t understand how, if Transport Canada believes extra measures are needed, the 737 Max can be considered safe.

“Why do they think extra measures should be put in place? It’s because they don’t believe that plane can fly safely. They know that something can go wrong, and that plane comes down, just like it happened in the two crashes,” Mr. Njoroge said.

“What I expected Boeing and the FAA to do was go back to the drawing board and redesign a new plane. That’s what I expected. But they just wanted to do some upgrades.”

Chris Moore, whose 24-year-old daughter, Danielle, was killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash while on her way to Kenya to work with the United Nations, said the announcement that the 737 Max would return to service is traumatic for the family.

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Mr. Moore, who is from Toronto, said families of the victims were briefed by the FAA on Wednesday but didn’t come away feeling better about the safety of the 737 Max, given that a revamped version of the MCAS system is still needed to stabilize the aircraft.

“They seem satisfied with it,” Mr. Moore said. “But I will not fly that plane. It should either be redone as a new aircraft, or scrutinized by an independent panel of experts.”

Mr. Moore and Mr. Njoroge will both appear before the House of Commons Transport Committee next week, where they plan to push for more transparency of Transport Canada’s scrutiny of the plane, and how the government will deem whether the aircraft is safe.

“In order to give confidence to the public, they need to disclose everything that they have done,” Mr. Njoroge said. “All the extra measures, and the validation procedures that they have followed so far – they need to disclose those to the people of Canada.”

The Max, a re-engined upgrade of a jet first introduced in the 1960s, was flown by Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing Airlines.

Air Canada has 24 Max aircraft, but recently cancelled orders for 10 and pushed back delivery of another 16 Max planes until a period beginning in late 2021 because of the plunge in demand for air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Montreal-based carrier has 351 aircraft in its fleet, including the main line and subsidiary airlines. As Air Canada slashes capacity, many of these are grounded and 79 are being dropped from the fleet.

In a webcast speech on Wednesday, Air Canada chief executive officer Calin Rovinescu said the carrier’s pilots have experience training on the company’s Max simulators and had not experienced any of the airspeed problems shown in the two fatal crashes. Air Canada has said it expects the plane to receive Canadian approval to fly commercially in early 2021.

“Based on all the work that has been done, we are quite confident but we’re not taking anything for granted,” Mr. Rovinescu said in a presentation to the Canadian Club of Toronto.

WestJet has 13 Max planes in its 181-aircraft fleet. The planes are parked, and fired up every 10 days and flown occasionally to maintenance facilities, with permission from Transport Canada.

“Our Max aircraft will only return to service once all requirements are met or exceeded and we are certain they are safe and ready to return to active service in the WestJet fleet,” said Morgan Bell, a WestJet spokeswoman.

Single-aisle jets such as the Max and rival Airbus A320neo are workhorses that dominate global fleets and provide a major source of industry profit.

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However, the U.S. plane-maker’s jet will resume commercial service facing strong headwinds from a resurgent coronavirus pandemic, new European trade tariffs and mistrust of one of the most scrutinized brands in aviation.

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