Skip to main content

A WestJet Airlines Boeing 737 Max aircraft arrives at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on January 21, 2021.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

WestJet Airlines and Sunwing Airlines are among 16 operators of the 737 Max warned by Boeing Co. to ground and inspect some aircraft for possible electrical problems.

Boeing has told the airlines to examine certain models of the Max for potential problems related to a component of the electric power system.

Morgan Bell, a WestJet spokeswoman, said one of 14 737 Max in its fleet has been pulled from service. “Any maintenance, if necessary, will be completed before the aircraft returns to service,” Ms. Bell said. “WestJet’s additional 13 737 Max aircraft are not affected.”

Sunwing said two of its four 737 Max are affected by the suspension. “We have been informed by Boeing that two of our 737 Max planes may be impacted by the potential electrical issue,” said Melanie Filipp, a spokeswoman for Sunwing, which grounded all flights on Jan. 31 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are awaiting further direction from Boeing on actions to be taken prior to operation of the specified aircraft.”

The 737 Max was cleared to resume flying in Canada in January after it was grounded worldwide for about 20 months because of two crashes in which 346 people died. The pilots lost control of the planes shortly after takeoff – problems that were linked to the model’s manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system (MCAS).

Canadian, U.S. and other regulators studied and approved software changes Boeing made before allowing the model to resume service.

Ivan Gale, a Boeing spokesman, said the electrical problem in the new safety warning is not related to the model’s MCAS. Mr. Gale declined to name the carriers affected. “We are in contact directly with the impacted airlines,” he said.

Boeing did not say how many planes are suspended.

Southwest Airlines removed 30 Max airplanes from its schedule on Friday, while American Airlines pulled 17 of its 41 MAX models. United Airlines removed 16 of its 30 Max airplanes and Alaska Airlines four aircraft.

An Air Canada spokesman said none of the carrier’s 24 737 Max are affected.

Transport Canada said it is aware of the potential problem and has contacted WestJet and Sunwing. “We are also following up with the U.S. FAA on the same issue,” said Cybelle Morin, a Transport Canada spokeswoman.

“This potential issue was discovered on a production airplane during normal build activity. The discovery and required corrective actions related to such in-service issues is not uncommon,” Ms. Morin said. “Transport Canada can confirm that this issue is not related to the MCAS or the previous grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.”

The U.S. regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration, said it will ensure the issue is addressed.

The fatal crashes that led to the global grounding in 2019 involved Indonesia’s Lion Air in October, 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines in March, 2019.

WestJet’s Ms. Bell said the new grounding has not changed the carrier’s favourable view of the 737 Max. “WestJet has safely operated the 737 Max since its return to service on Jan. 21, 2021, and the airline has full confidence in the safety of the aircraft,” she said.

The 737 Max is a new version of a plane that first flew in the late 1960s. Updated with bigger engines and other modifications, the model became a bestseller after being introduced in 2011 owing to its longer range and low operating costs.

With a report from Reuters

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.