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Canada grounds Boeing 737 Max 8 planes, U.S. follows

Last Updated Mar 13, 2019 at 7:04 pm EDT

Transport Minister Marc Garneau is grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 airplanes in Canada over safety concerns arising from the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that killed all on board, including 18 Canadians.

In a news conference in Ottawa Wednesday morning, delayed twice by what Garneau said was incoming new information, the minister called the decision to ground the plane a precautionary move that was made after a review of all the available evidence.

The “safety notice” means none of the aircraft can fly into, out of, or over Canada, he said: “I will not hesitate to take swift action should we discover any additional safety issues.”

Boeing has since issued a statement recommending to the F– out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety — to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of 371 737 MAX aircraft

Garneau said evidence about multiple Boeing 737 Max 8 flights suggests a worrying correlation between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and another off Indonesia in October.

He adds there was no push-back from Air Canada or WestJet, who both fly the aircraft, when they were informed of the grounding. “They realize the importance of safety.”

Garneau said they have not had any safety complaints from pilots regarding the Boeing 737 Max 8 from any of the airlines. However, the union representing Air Canada flight attendants voiced concerns about its members flying on the planes on Tuesday. Pilots on two flights in the U.S. have reported that an automated system seemed to cause their Boeing planes to tilt down suddenly.

Global grounding

The U.S. followed suit in grounding the Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday afternoon the U.S. is issuing an emergency order to ground the aircraft, effective immediately, in the wake of the Ethiopian crash.

While aviation experts warn against drawing conclusions until more information emerges from the crash investigation, numerous jurisdictions – including the United Kingdom, the European Union, China and Australia – had already barred the Boeing 737 Max 8 from its airspace.

Up until Wednesday afternoon, the Federal Aviation Administration had been saying that it didn’t have any data to show the jets are unsafe.

In a statement, Boeing said it “continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX.” The company added that it had decided “out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety — to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of 371 737 MAX aircraft.”

Passenger-rights advocate Gabor Lukacs said Wednesday that it would be prudent for Garneau to suspend use of the aircraft until questions are answered about what caused the Ethiopian crash.

“Generally, one should always be erring on the side of caution when it comes to safety questions,” he said from Halifax. “If there is enough evidence of a potential harm, and in this case I think there is evidence of potential harm, then the prudent thing is to ground those aircraft.”


Flights cancelled

People with flights affected by the grounding should contact their airlines to find out what to do, Garneau said.

Air Canada has 24 Max 8 aircraft, which it uses mainly for domestic and U.S. routes, while Calgary-based WestJet Airlines Ltd. has 13 Max 8s. Sunwing Airlines operates four Max 8 aircraft, which the airline decided to ground late Tuesday.

Air Canada confirmed they will comply immediately with the safety notice and said their cancellation and rebooking policies are in place with a full fee waiver for affected customers.

They add customers can expected delays in rebooking and in reaching Air Canada call centres as their Boeing 737 Max aircraft fly between 9,000 and 12,000 travelers a day.

WestJet also says they are currently grounding their Boeing 737 Max fleet to comply with the Transport Canada decision and ask for understanding from passengers who are impacted as they work to rebook them. The airline says as of March 13, about 1,000 guests have been affected. They add more than 92 per cent of their fleet remains in service.

The following flights were scheduled to use the Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft in Toronto on Wednesday:

DEPARTURES

AC410- Toronto to Montreal – 12 p.m. CANCELLED

WS663- Toronto to Calgary – 1 p.m. ON TIME

AC169- Toronto to Edmonton – 2:40 p.m. CANCELLED

AC1208- Toronto to West Palm Beach – 4:50 p.m. CANCELLED

AC688-Toronto to St. John – 5:50 p.m. CANCELLED

WS529- Toronto to Winnipeg – 6:28 p.m. SCHEDULED

AC173- Toronto to Edmonton – 6:45 p.m. CANCELLED

ARRIVALS

AC921- West Palm Beach to Toronto- 3:05 p.m.- CANCELLED

AC758- San Francisco to Toronto- 3 p.m. – DEPARTED

AC615- Halifax to Toronto- 3:34 p.m. – CANCELLED

AC140- Calgary to Toronto- 3:56 p.m. – CANCELLED

WS1245- Tampa Bay to Toronto – 4:28 p.m.- CANCELLED

WS1229- Orlando to Toronto- 4:37 p.m. – CANCELLED

WS710- Vancouver to Toronto- 6:28 p.m. – CANCELLED

 

With files from The Associated Press