Garneau: Canada “displayed leadership” in 737 MAX emergency training

Avatar for Ken PoleBy Ken Pole | March 19, 2019

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 26 seconds.

Pilots at Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing, who were the only Canadians flying the now-grounded Boeing 737 MAX 8, have been “very aware” for some time of a possible controls conflict which could threaten flight safety, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said March 18.

Sunwing MAX 8 aircraft in flight
Sunwing is among the three Canadian airlines that operate the now-grounded Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, with four MAX 8s in its fleet. Sunwing Photo

He told reporters outside the House of Commons that after the crash of a Lion Air MAX 8 into the Java Sea off Indonesia Oct. 29, “Canada received an emergency directive, as many other countries did . . . from Boeing and the FAA concerning the possibility.”

Boeing is now trying to address the potential situation through a software update.

A week after an Ethiopian Airlines MAX 8 also had crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Garneau was commenting on early indications that a conflict between the aircraft’s attitude indicators and Boeing’s new Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) could have been the underlying cause of both crashes.

Garneau said that when his department and the operators received the Boeing notification, “We took that, looked at it, spoke with WestJet, Air Canada and Sunwing, and decided to go back and add to that training and also add to the procedures. . . . This is something that needs to be recognized immediately and reacted to, and we felt it’s something–as happens with pilots sometimes–that has to be memorized by them, so that they recognize it and immediately act upon it.”

He attributed the lack of similar accidents in Canada to that additional crew training by the three Canadian operators. “We displayed leadership with respect to the measures we would take if that problem were to occur. It hasn’t occurred in Canada. . . .

“It is something that’s important for pilots to know about because, if it is software that is going to cause a reaction by the airplane in an automatic fashion, it is important for the pilots to be able to recognize it in some cases where it’s not functioning properly to take corrective action.”

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg had said earlier in the day that Boeing was “finalizing its development of a previously-announced software update and pilot training revision which would address the MCAS . . . behaviour in response to erroneous sensor inputs.”

Garneau said that when the update is ready “in a number of weeks,” his department would do its own certification as a matter of routine.

“The FAA is the organization that did the certification of the 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 and they are the country of origin,” he added. “That type certificate, when it was presented to us, we validated. We did that in 2017. We’re going to re-examine [and] review the validation we did at that time. We may not change anything, but we’ve decided it’s a good idea for us to review the validation of the type certificate given for the MAX 8.

“Those are two activities that are underway.”

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