WestJet Boeing 737 MAX flight grounded at Calgary airport after ‘potential fault’ warning

Click to play video 'Boeing 737 Max plane re-enters Canadian airspace' Boeing 737 Max plane re-enters Canadian airspace
Nearly two years since being grounded, the first Boeing 737 Max plane -- operated by WestJet -- took off Thursday from Calgary to Vancouver. Christa Dao reports on the inaugural flight and why industry experts maintain the plane is 100 per cent safe – Jan 21, 2021

A WestJet flight bound for Toronto was grounded at YYC Calgary International Airport Friday after pilots were warned of a “potential fault” in the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

According to WestJet, Flight WS658 had passengers on board and was getting ready to take off, when it was “returned to the gate after push back.”

Read more: WestJet returning Boeing’s troubled 737 MAX 8 to service with commercial flight

“After a normal engine start, a standard function of the health monitoring system indicated a potential fault that needed to be verified and reset,” WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart said in an emailed statement.

“This process takes time and requires a subsequent engine run, which we do not perform with guests on board.”

Click to play video '1st Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada after grounding' 1st Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada after grounding
1st Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada after grounding – Jan 21, 2021

Stewart said the flight was cancelled, and the 35 passengers were instead put on Flight WS662, boarding a planned Dreamliner flight “only because we didn’t want to keep them waiting.” The aircraft’s return flight, WS665 from Toronto to Calgary, was also cancelled.

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The Boeing 737 MAX was cleared for flight shortly after the passengers got off, and is set to return to service on Sunday, Stewart said.

According to the Calgary airport’s website, WS658 was set to take off at 8 a.m. Stewart said all of the guests on the original flight have since landed in Toronto.

WestJet flew Canada’s first commercial flight on a 737 MAX in almost two years just one day prior, after the aircraft was taken out of Canadian skies following two deadly crashes.

Chris Bauenbusch, president of CUPE Local 4070 which represents WestJet’s flight attendants, was on the cancelled flight, working as a flight attendant, when the plane had to return to the gate.

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He said in the airline industry, it’s “common to have the odd hiccup here and there.”

“Obviously there’s a heightened focus on a model of aircraft coming back into service, such as what’s happening with that aircraft,” he said. “But these are common things that happen on a daily basis.”

Bauenbusch said from a union perspective, they have no issues with their members flying on the aircraft.

“The union maintains… that this is a safe aircraft, through all the rigor that it’s been put through,” he said.

In a statement, Transport Canada said it was aware of the flight that “opted to return to the gate.”

“We understand the pilots made this decision due to a cockpit warning light that signaled before departure,” the agency said.

“This incident is not related to the previous grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.”