Ottawa considers ‘all potential actions’ as it weighs safety of Boeing 737 Max aircraft

OTTAWA—Transport Minister Marc Garneau says the federal government is considering “all potential actions” as other aviation regulators around the globe move to ground the Boeing 737 Max aircraft in the wake of two troubling crashes.

The crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max on Sunday soon after take-off from Addis Ababa, killed 157 passengers and crew, including 18 Canadians, has rattled the global aviation community.

The Boeing 737 MAX airplane stands outside the company's manufacturing facility in Renton, Washington, on Dec. 8, 2015.
The Boeing 737 MAX airplane stands outside the company’s manufacturing facility in Renton, Washington, on Dec. 8, 2015.  (David Ryder / Bloomberg)

That’s because the circumstances of that crash are similar to the crash of a Lion Air 737 Max last October. Preliminary reports suggest the pilots of that flight were having flight-control problems.

Flights by Boeing Max aircraft are banned in growing parts of the globe as regulators shut down airspace as a precaution. On Tuesday alone, United Kingdom, Ireland and European Union Aviation Safety Agency announced they were suspending flights by the updated version of the popular twinjet. They follow similar actions by China, Germany, France and Australia.

“As we do not currently have sufficient information from the flight-data recorder we have, as a precautionary measure, issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying U.K. airspace,” the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement .

Article Continued Below

In Canada, WestJet, Air Canada and Sunwing fly the 737 Max model, an updated version of the twinjet that first flew commercially in 1967.

On Monday, Garneau declared confidence in the aircraft and said that grounding the aircraft would be “premature” until more is known.

Article Continued Below

But on Tuesday, he cancelled a planned event in Montreal to meet with aviation advisers.

“I’ve cancelled all my meetings and public events today in order to meet with my Civil Aviation Expert Panel. All evidence is being evaluated in real time and we’re considering all potential actions,” Garneau said on Twitter.

The closure of British airspace forced Air Canada to cancel flights from St. John’s and Halifax to London that were to operated by Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

The Air Canada Pilots Association on Tuesday called on Garneau to “take proactive action to ensure the safety of the Canadian traveling public” but did not specify exactly what it wanted the government to do.

Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier