Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau says Canada will not order its airlines to ground their Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes after one of the aircraft crashed in Ethiopia, killing all 157 people on board, including 18 Canadians.
Garneau said it was important “we don’t jump to conclusions,” as investigators are still working to determine what led to the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines jet shortly after it took off from Addis Ababa on Sunday.
WATCH: Garneau says Canada being ‘proactive’ despite not grounding Boeing 737 MAX 8
“We are being very proactive right now,” Garneau told reporters in Montreal on Monday. “I was in touch with the secretary of transport in the United States. My colleagues at Transport Canada are working with the NTSB and the Federal Aviation Authority.”
“It was a sunny day, an experienced pilot, the plane was brand new. But we know little else,” he said. “Flying in this country is one of the safest ways to travel. The statistics very, very clearly prove that.”
Aviation authorities in China, Indonesia and Ethiopia ordered airlines on Monday to ground their Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes, while Cayman Airways said it was temporarily grounding the two MAX 8 aircraft it operates. On Tuesday, aviation authorities in the U.K., Germany, France and Ireland all moved to ground their fleets of 737 MAX 8s.
Air Canada has 24 Boeing 737 MAX 8s, WestJet Airlines Ltd. has 13 and Sunwing Airlines flies four MAX 8s, according to Transport Canada’s civil aircraft register.
Airlines remain confident
Garneau’s comments came as the country’s two largest airlines attempted to reassure passengers about the safety of the aircraft following the tragedy in Ethiopia.
Air Canada said its MAX 8 aircraft have performed “excellently” and continue to meet safety and reliability standards.
“We have operated this aircraft type since 2017 and currently have 24 in our fleet,” Isabelle Arthur, a spokesperson with the airline, said in a statement. “These aircraft have performed excellently from a safety, reliability and customer satisfaction perspective.”
Asked if Air Canada would enact special measures to accommodate passengers who may have booked on a MAX 8 but no longer want to fly on that aircraft, an airline spokesperson declined to answer the question.
“We have extensive analytical data supporting the safety of these aircraft which have also performed excellently from reliability and customer satisfaction perspective,” Air Canada said in a statement. “We are confident in the safety of our operations and fleet, which are approved by government safety regulators including Transport Canada and the FAA. Air Canada follows and implements recommendations and advisories from manufacturers and governmental safety regulators.”
Calgary-based WestJet said it is “working with Boeing to ensure the continued safe operation of our MAX fleet,” which includes 13 MAX 8s.
“We have flown five different variants of the Boeing 737 since 1996, and the fleet currently operates around 450 safe daily B737 departures,” spokesperson Morgan Bell said in a statement. “We are monitoring the situation closely and will not speculate on the cause of the incident.”
Sunwing operates four MAX 8s but did not respond to a request for comment from Global News.
The crash of the Ethiopian Airlines jet just minutes after it took off from Addis Ababa on Sunday raised concerns over parallels to the Lion Air crash of the same model plane in Indonesia last October that killed 189 people.
The Air Canada Pilots Association, the union for Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge pilots, sent out a statement urging Transport Canada “to take proactive action to ensure the safety of the Canadian travelling public.”
Ethiopian Airlines said Monday that investigators have recovered the plane’s flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder and were trying to determine the cause of the deadly crash involving a new aircraft model touted for its environmentally friendly engine.
It is still unclear what caused the plane to go down shortly after takeoff, but the pilot sent out a distress call and was given clearance to return, the airline’s CEO said on Sunday. The MAX 8s Manoeuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was implicated in the Lion Air disaster, has also come under renewed scrutiny.
Boeing has said it doesn’t intend to issue any new guidance to its customers and plans to send a technical team to the crash site to help Ethiopian and U.S. investigators.
“We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team,” the Chicago-based company said in a statement. “Safety is our No. 1 priority, and we are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this accident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved.”
Ethiopian Airlines has said that investigators have located the plane’s black box of flight data and cockpit voice recorder.
However, an airline official told the Associated Press that the box was partially damaged and “we will see what we can retrieve from it.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to speak to the media.
—With files from the Associated Press