Skip to main content

Report on Business Air Canada, WestJet purchased safety option reportedly missing on crashed Boeing 737 planes

An Air Canada Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft departing for Calgary taxis to a runway at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on March 12, 2019.

The Canadian Press

Canada’s two largest airlines have at least one of the optional safety features on their Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft that were reportedly lacking on the jets that crashed in Ethiopia and Indonesia.

Air Canada and WestJet Airlines both say they purchased disagree lights used by the aircraft’s software system during flight to avert stalls.

The New York Times has reported the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air jets involved in recent fatal crashes were not equipped with angle of attack indicators and disagree lights.

The safety features are not standard on the aircraft and are offered by Boeing as upgrades.

Air Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said the country’s largest airline purchased both safety features for its fleet of 24 Max 8 planes.

However, WestJet spokeswoman Morgan Bell said the Calgary-based airline’s 13 Max 8 planes are not configured with the angle of attack indicators.

She said the disagree light was purchased so the new aircraft will have common configurations with its Boeing 737 NG fleet.

Neither airline would disclose the cost of purchasing these options.

Neither Sunwing Airlines, which has four Max 8s, nor Boeing responded to requests for comment.

Ethiopian Airlines says its pilots completed all training for flying the 737 Max 8

Boeing to offer safety feature as standard in 737 Max software upgrade, officials say

Crashed 737 Max planes lacked two key safety features Boeing sold as extras

Norwegian Air, which is preparing to launch Canadian service to Europe on March 31, says it hasn’t added the optional extra because it is “not a critical safety feature nor is it a requirement by any aviation authority.”

“We are in close dialogue with Boeing and follow their and the aviation authorities’ instructions and recommendations, we immediately implement all safety recommendations as required,” stated acting chief operating officer Tomas Hesthammer.

Story continues below advertisement

The discount carrier said it is working on using other aircraft to cover the route but said it is too early to tell how the grounding of the Boeing planes will impact its operations in the coming months.

The safety indicators help pilots detect any erroneous readings from two vanelike sensors that determine the position of the plane’s nose relative to oncoming air.

The angle of attack indicator displays the readings of the two sensors while the disagree light is activated if the sensors don’t provide the same information, the U.S. daily said.

The MCAS system can automatically push the plane’s nose down to prevent stalling if it determines it is pointing up at a dangerous level.

The New York Times also said, citing unnamed sources, that Boeing will soon update the MCAS software and make the disagree light standard on all new 737 Max planes, but maintain the angle of attack indicator as an option.

Boeing is rushing to complete the upgrades on jets by early next week, according to a person familiar with the changes.

Story continues below advertisement

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Boeing and federal regulators are still discussing details of the upgrade to the Max fleet, which was grounded worldwide after a second deadly crash this month in Ethiopia.

The causes of the Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10 and the Lion Air crash five months earlier, both on takeoff, are being investigated. Investigators are looking at whether a new software system added to avoid stalls may have been a contributing factor.

Air Canada has removed its grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 jets from service until at least July 1 in order to provide more certainty for passengers who wish to book flights in the coming months.

Both Air Canada and WestJet have suspended their 2019 financial guidances.

Report an error
Tickers mentioned in this story
Unchecking box will stop auto data updates
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter