ISSUE/SOURCE: BOEING 737 MAX 8 RETURN TO SERVICE UPDATE
DATE: February 15, 2021
- Transport Canada (TC) remains committed to keeping Canadians, the travelling public, and the transportation system safe and secure.
- Transport Canada aviation safety experts have completed their independent review of the design changes to the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft recently certified by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and have validated these changes. Validation of these changes means that these modifications can be incorporated on Canadian registered aircraft.
- Transport Canada has worked extensively with the FAA and other key certifying authorities, including the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the National Civil Aviation Agency of Brazil (ANAC), as well as the three Canadian operators of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, and their pilot unions throughout the validation process of the aircraft to ensure all factors are addressed prior to a safe return to service of the aircraft. Transport Canada’s certification experts, by their rigour and thoroughness, have demonstrated great leadership throughout the process, and were instrumental in guiding the aircraft design changes.
- On January 18, 2021, Transport Canada released an Airworthiness Directive (AD) for the Boeing 737 MAX, which detailed the required modifications to be made to the aircraft prior to a return to service in Canadian airspace. An Interim Order (IO) was also issued requiring operators to implement training requirements.
- As a final step in this process, on January 20, 2021, Transport Canada lifted the existing Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) which prohibited the commercial operation of the aircraft in Canadian airspace. This allowed for the return to service of the aircraft in Canada.
- Throughout the Department’s independent review, it has worked closely with Canadian airline operators, crews and union associations on the implementation of these measures. Through oversight activities, the department has confirmed that Canadian operators are implementing the required measures. Canadian airline operators have also collaborated in the development of the new training program. In addition, since Transport Canada approved the revised training program for the three Canadian Operators on December 21, 2020, these airlines have been actively training their pilots.
IF PRESSED - MCAS & January 22 Globe & Mail Article
- The full functionality of MCAS was not disclosed to Transport Canada during its initial validation, but has been thoroughly investigated by TC in the work leading to the return to service of the 737 MAX.
- MCAS is not a system that prevents the aircraft from stalling – it is not a stall protection system. MCAS was installed to augment the stick forces that the pilot feels in stall scenarios, to meet design standards that specify what these forces should be.
The position of the engines on the 737 MAX did not result in an intrinsically unstable aircraft as the article suggests. The 737 MAX was extensively investigated by Transport Canada, including flight testing that demonstrated safe handling characteristics in stall scenarios both with and without the Speed Trim System which includes the MCAS system.
- The assertion by TC staff (Jim Marko) that “MCAS has to go” was a realization that the path to return the aircraft to service could well be easier without this system. This notion was fully supported by the Director General, Mr. Robinson, given it demonstrated the freedom given to TC staff to investigate all options in its independent investigation of the 737 MAX. In the end, the FAA determined that MCAS was indeed needed to meet compliance with one particular requirement, and TC agreed. Notwithstanding this determination, TC’s own flight testing showed that the aircraft handling characteristics were adequate without the system operating.
- TC completed its validation of the design changes to the 737 MAX on December 17, 2020, after a 20 month investigation involving in excess of 16,000 hours. TC is satisfied that the design changes address the safety issues that lead to the two tragic accidents.
The Accidents and Early Response
- The Boeing 737 MAX 8, a new aircraft type, was involved in two serious fatal accidents resulting in the death of 346 passengers.
- The first accident took place on October 29, 2018, where a Lion Air Flight took off from Jakarta, Indonesia, with 189 passengers on board, and crashed into the sea minutes after takeoff.
- The second accident occurred on March 10, 2019, where an Ethiopian Air Flight took off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with 157 passengers on board, crashing shortly after takeoff.
- Following the Lion Air accident, Transport Canada (TC), in collaboration with the three Canada operators of the MAX 8 (Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing), implemented additional mandatory training requirements for Canadian Boeing 737 MAX 8 pilots on a precautionary basis. These additional Canadian training requirements exceeded those of other countries.
- Following the Ethiopian Airlines accident on March 10, 2019, TC officials took immediate action to gather evidence and assess the risks and need for action. They reached out to international partners, experts from industry and pilots who fly the aircraft and considered information as it became available in the days immediately following this accident. Many aviation regulators overseas grounded the plane March 12, 2019.
- Early on March 13, 2019, TC experts received satellite data from Aireon, a global air traffic surveillance system company that provided indications the Ethiopian Airlines flight experienced significant flight control problems similar to the Lion Air flight. Based on this preliminary data, later the same morning, the Minister of Transport announced an immediate closure of Canadian airspace to the Boeing 737 MAX 8 on a precautionary basis. The U.S. followed Canada, grounding the Boeing 737 MAX 8 later that day.
Certification and Validation of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 Changes
- The U.S. Federal Aviation Association (FAA), as the state of design for the aircraft, is responsible for certifying Boeing’s approach to fixing the identified issues that contributed to the two accidents.
- The four major certification authorities (i.e. TC, United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and Brazilian Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC)) have been working towards a coordinated recertification and validation of the Boeing 737 MAX design changes and operational requirements with the goal to implement a globally aligned return to service of the aircraft, establish common training requirement, and publically demonstrate international acceptance of proposed changes.
- As part of its validation work, in April 2019 TC identified to the FAA key areas of concerns that must be addressed before the aircraft can return to service in Canada:
- Acceptable levels of pilot workload;
- The architecture of the flight controls; and,
- Minimum training required for crew members.
- The concerns identified by TC are closely aligned with those of other aviation authorities including: the Brazilian Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
- TC has been at the forefront of the international collaboration with aviation safety agencies to ensure that they are well aware of the certification and analysis work that is underway and Canada’s position on this work. Many authorities have indicated that they will be reviewing TC’s validation work to assist them in deciding whether to return the aircraft to service.
737 MAX Reviews
- TC also participated in the Joint Operational Technical Review (JATR) with the FAA, the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) and other civil aviation authorities to conduct a comprehensive and independent technical review of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight control system. On October 11, 2019, the FAA published the results of the JATR review and recommendations.
- The U.S National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also released its report on September 26, 2019, following its Boeing 737 MAX 8 investigation. The report included seven recommendations that are closely aligned with the issues TC outlined in its April 2019 letter to the FAA, and continues to have.
- On October 25, 2019, the Indonesian authorities released a report on the 2018 Lion Air accident, which contains 26 recommendations, including 9 directed to the FAA. Some recommendations are similar in scope to those in the NTSB and JATR reports.
- TC has carefully reviewed the recommendations from the JATR, NTSB and Indonesia’s reports, which generally correspond to the issues TC identified in April 2019, as it continues its work towards the return to service of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 in Canada.
TC Engagement with ET-302 Victims’ Families
- On January 8, 2020, Transport Canada's Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) met with family members of the Canadian victims of the March 2019 Ethiopian Airlines accident. This meeting allowed TC to hear concerns and questions from the families. The DGCA outlined the actions taken to date, as well as the rigorous review of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 that is currently underway.
- The DGCA has continued to communicate with the impacted families as part of TC’s continued efforts to keep them informed of our activities on the Boeing 737-MAX.
- On February 12, 2020, Minister Garneau met with the impacted families of the Ethiopian Airlines Crash in Toronto.
Flight Test & Joint Operational Evaluation Board Activities
- Transport Canada successfully completed a series of flight test activities of the updated aircraft as part of the validation process. From August 23 to 25, 2020, Transport Canada’s flight test crew were flown to Seattle, Washington, to conduct evaluations on the engineering simulator at the Boeing facility and then at the end of the each test day, were flown back to Vancouver.
- The flight test evaluations took place on August 26 and 27, 2020 in U.S. airspace using the Boeing test aircraft.
- Canada was the first international regulator to complete validation testing activities of the aircraft.
- From September 14 to 22, 2020, Transport Canada participated in a Joint Operational Evaluation Board (JOEB), which is made up of representatives from global certification authorities.
- The JOEB evaluated all proposed pilot training in support of B-737 MAX design changes and established harmonized training/operational findings among authorities.
- The following Canadian-unique operational requirements are a result of the JOEB;
- TCCA Recommendation -Additional Full Stall Demonstration to show Speed Trim Function
- Prerequisite Full Stall training –for pilots who have never had stall training beyond stick shaker
- Allowable Runaway Stabilizer malfunctions for Full Flight Training
- Airspeed Unreliable NNC –disabling of nuisance stick shaker by CB pull
Return to Service
- Boeing, as the aircraft manufacturer, has developed a modification package to address the safety risks identified by these accidents.
- On November 18, 2020, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released an Airworthiness Directive (AD) for the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Through this directive, the FAA mandated its approved changes be made to the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, and confirmed it could return to service in U.S. airspace.
- On December 17, 2020, Transport Canada aviation safety experts completed their independent review of the design changes to the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and validated these changes. Validation of these changes means that these modifications can be incorporated on Canadian registered aircraft.
- On January 18, 2021, Transport Canada issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) for the Boeing 737 MAX, which outlines the required modifications to be made to the aircraft prior to a return to service in Canadian airspace. It addresses Transport Canada’s outstanding safety concerns and concludes the department’s review of the aircraft.
- In addition to all reviews, and to provide additional assurances that all measures are in place, an Interim Order (IO) that clearly indicates Transport Canada’s expectations and requirements for additional training for crew members was also issued for operators. It is complementary to the design and maintenance requirements of the Airworthiness Directive
- As a final step in this process, on January 20, 2021, Transport Canada lifted the existing Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) which prohibited the commercial operation of the aircraft in Canadian airspace. This allowed for commercial operations of the Boeing 737 MAX to resume in Canadian airspace, foreign operators are also now allowed to fly their Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into Canada.
- WestJet has been flying the Boeing MAX commercially since Thursday, January 28th. Air Canada began Boeing MAX commercial flights on February 1st . Sunwing received a delivery of two brand new MAX aircraft on February 3rd, however Sunwing has not yet announced when they will return their MAX 8’s to service.
- Throughout the department’s independent review, it has worked closely with Canadian airline operators, crews and union associations on the implementation of these measures. Through oversight activities, the department has confirmed that Canadian operators are implementing the required measures and will be ready for the return to service of the aircraft in the coming days and weeks. Canadian airline operators have also collaborated in the development of the new training program. In addition, since Transport Canada approved the revised training program for the three Canadian Operators on December 21, 2020, these airlines have been actively training their pilots.
- In accordance with the Aeronautics Act, Interim Orders issued by the Minister are in effect for a period of fourteen (14) days.
- Subsequently, Tranport Canada will seek the Governor in Council approval to extend the requirements for one (1) year while regulations are developed; making permanent the ability of the Minister to order revised training programs. This regulatory amendment will better align the Civil Aviation Regulations with existing the Federal Aviation Association’s and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency’srules.