Canada and the European Union say they are re-examining the approval it gave Boeing 737 MAX jets, following reports of a U.S. investigation into the Federal Aviation Administration certification of the aircraft.
Garneau said Monday that Transport Canada is taking a second look at the validation of the 737 MAX 8 jet, which has been grounded around the world over safety concerns following the recent crash of an Ethiopian plane of that model, which killed 157 people, and the Lion Air crash last October that killed 189.
Canada accepted the FAA’s certification of the MAX in June 2017 under a bilateral agreement where such approvals by the U.S. are almost always accepted by Canada and vice versa.
“We are going to review the validation that we did at that time,” Garneau told reporters in Ottawa. “We may not change anything but we’ve decided it’s a good idea for us to review the validation of the type certificate that was given for the Max 8.”
Garneau said that Transport Canada would do its own certification of an upcoming software from Boeing “even if it’s certified by the FAA.”
The European Union’s aviation safety agency, EASA, has also vowed to take a deeper investigation into how the MAX aircraft was certified.
“We will not allow the aircraft to fly if we have not found acceptable answers to all our questions,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky told an EU parliament committee hearing. “This is a personal guarantee that I make in front of you,” he added.
However, aviation experts are urging the federal government to review the bilateral agreement which essentially forces Canada to automatically approve the certification of aircraft done by the FAA.
Ashley Nunes, who studies regulatory policy at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics, said the FAA has for years lacked adequate resources and staffing, which has had an “impact on the quality of service.”
“The FAA was putting pressure on its own employees to hurry up and certify the airplane, which, quite frankly, is not the role of the agency,” Nunes told Global News. “The agency isn’t there to look out for Boeing. The agency is there to look out for the flying public.”
The Seattle Times reported that Boeing’s safety analysis of a new flight control system on MAX jets, known as MCAS, had several crucial flaws, including understating the power of the system. The Times also reported that FAA put pressure on its engineers to speed up the approval process.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Transportation Department’s inspector general officials were scrutinizing the FAA approval of MAX jets and that a grand jury in Washington subpoenaed at least one person involved in developing the MAX.
Ross Aimer, a U.S. pilot and aviation expert, said that no country should take the FAA “at its word” when it comes to certifying aircraft.
A spokesperson for Transport Canada said that Canada conducts its own “rigorous risk-based validation” of FAA certified aircraft that operate in Canada, but did not confirm it was reviewing the agreement.
“Transport Canada is also preparing to send a team to Boeing to assist the FAA in the evaluation of the design changes proposed, and help determine if any further changes to the design or procedures are necessary,” Dupuis added.
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In the aftermath of the two crashes, investigators have focused on the aircraft’s MCAS system, which is designed to automatically lower the nose of the plane to prevent it from stalling.
The MCAS was cited as the potential cause of the Lion Air crash by investigators in Indonesia, and Ethiopia’s Transport Minister has said an initial analysis of the black boxes recovered from the wreckage showed “clear similarities” between the two crashes.
Garneau said that following the Lion Air crash Canada added extra training and procedures for pilots after receiving an emergency bulletin from Boeing.
Air Canada said the timeline for the “return to service of the 737 Max is unknown,” but that it intends to remove the jets from its flying schedules until at least July 1, 2019 for planning purposes and to provide customers certainty related to travel plans.
*With a file from Reuters