Toronto family wants to know why Ottawa didn’t ground Boeing Max jets after first crash

OTTAWA—Chris Moore has one big question for when he meets with federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau.

Why did Transport Canada not ground the Boeing 737 Max sooner, after one of the jets operated by Lion Air crashed in Indonesia in October 2018?

Such a decision, he says, might have saved his daughter, Danielle, 24, who was among the 157 passengers and crew on board Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 as it departed Addis Ababa for Nairobi.

The Boeing 737 Max crashed six minutes after takeoff, killing all on board, including 18 Canadians.

It was only after that accident last March that nations moved to ban the Boeing 737 Max jets from their skies. Transport Canada was among the last to act.

“They should have been grounded after the first crash … there should not have been a second crash,” Moore, of Toronto, said in an interview.

Moore hopes to put that issue to Garneau directly next month when the transport minister is expected to meet with family members of the Canadian victims of the Ethiopian crash.

The families met earlier this month with Nicolas Robinson, Transport Canada’s director general of civil aviation. While Moore says that meeting was useful, he wants to know more about what the federal transport department knew between the two crashes.

The months since the March grounding have laid bare troubling questions around the jet’s design, whether the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration had become too cosy with Boeing and whether other regulators such as Transport Canada were too trusting of FAA’s certification process.

But the question that haunts Moore the most is what if regulators had taken more aggressive action after the first crash, addressing the design flaw believed to be a factor in both accidents and perhaps prevented the second crash.

“What was discussed in Transport Canada? Was grounding an option? Did they seriously look at that?” he said Monday. “They have a big stick. They could have wielded it but they chose not to.”

The crash of the Ukraine International Airlines flight in Tehran earlier this month — shot down by at least one Iranian missile — brought back a flood of emotions for those who lost loved ones in the Boeing 737 Max accidents, Moore said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been vocal in the wake of that disaster that killed 176, including 57 Canadians, promising to hold Iran accountable. Moore wonders why the federal government didn’t make similar high-profile demands after the Boeing Max crashes.

“Why couldn’t he ask the same thing of the Americans and have the same accountability and transparency?” Moore said.

“Trudeau and Garneau should have stood up and pointed a finger at the FAA and said ‘this plane is grounded.’ They had the moral authority,” Moore said.

Amy Butcher, a spokesperson for Garneau, said that the minister recognizes that the families want answers.

“That’s a lot of the questions. What did Transport Canada know after the first crash? What did the FAA know? What did the FAA share with Transport Canada? What was the international response after the first crash?” she said.

“The minister is available to hear those questions and concerns,” Butcher said Monday.

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She said meeting with the families is “important” for Garneau. “We know that maintaining open lines of communication with families is essential and going forward that is our priority,” she said.

Moore’s daughter was headed to attend an environmental conference. She had a new partner and had been accepted into a university program to become a teacher. “We could live happily ever after,” Moore said.

Now his days are devoted to trying to understand what happened. “There’s nothing else I can do. I feel helpless,” he said.

Bruce Campion-Smith

TORONTO STAR