Canada takes first step toward clearing Boeing 737 Max to fly again

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After a nearly two-year flight ban, Transport Canada has taken the first step toward clearing the Boeing 737 Max to fly again by approving design changes to the aircraft in the wake of two deadly crashes.

In a letter obtained by CBC News, Transport Canada said it informed its U.S. counterpart on Wednesday that it has validated a number of changes to the aircraft with “some unique Canadian differences.”

Transport Canada confirmed this morning that the now validated changes include additional training that gives pilots the option to disable a “stick shaker” — which is “a loud and intrusive warning system when the system has been erroneously activated by a failure in the angle of attack sensor system,” according to a press release.

“This feature will help to reduce pilot workload given what has been learned from the two tragic accidents, and has been fully evaluated by Transport Canada’s flight test pilots,” wrote Transport Canada. “There will also be differences in training, including training on the enhanced flight deck procedure.”

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said today the plane has been “looked at very carefully because we want to make sure that we absolutely fix it.”

“We feel very confident because safety is critical for passengers, for the government of Canada, and we feel very confident that we have done our homework properly,” he said.

In October 2018, a 737 Max owned by Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff, killing all 189 passengers. In March 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines flight plunged from the air southeast of the capital, Addis Ababa, minutes after takeoff, killing everyone onboard — including 18 Canadians and a family of permanent residents to Canada. Countries around the world grounded the aircraft after the second crash. Canada was criticized for being one of the last countries to do so.

Ethiopia’s investigation report pointed the finger at Boeing, saying flaws in the aircraft’s design caused the crash. Inaccurate sensor readings activated the MCAS anti-stall system, which pointed the plane’s nose down as pilots struggled to right it, the report said.

There are a number of steps that still need to be taken before Transport Canada allows Canada’s 737 Max fleet to carry passengers again, including issuing a directive that outlines the design changes and mandating additional training in a simulator for air crews. These steps and others are expected to happen in January 2021, the department wrote.

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