MPs to study Canada’s aircraft-vetting process amid continuing 737 Max concerns

The House of Commons transport committee is set to study Canada’s certification process for new aircraft, amid lingering questions of why Boeing 737 Max planes were approved to fly in the first place.  The 737 Max, as well as the regulatory systems that allowed the faulty planes to fly, have been under intense global scrutiny since the aircraft was involved in two deadly crashes.  The first, involving a 737 Max 8 aircraft belonging to Lion Air, crashed in Indonesia in October 2018, killing all 189 people on board.

The second crash, of an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft last March, killed 157 people, including 18 Canadians. Faulty software forcing the aircraft to abruptly nosedive after takeoff has been cited as the cause of both crashes. Globally, the 737 Max planes have been grounded for almost an entire year.

In January, Boeing announced it would halt production of the aircraft as airlines cancelled dozens of orders.  A motion presented by Conservative transportation critic Todd Doherty on Tuesday asked for four meetings to study “Transport Canada’s aircraft certification process, including, but not limited to, the nature of Transport Canada’s relationship to the Federal Aviation Administration and other certifying bodies, as well as the role of airplane manufacturers in the airplane certification process.” The motion for a study, the committee’s first of this Parliament, received the support of Liberal member Chris Bittle, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of transport, who said the issue is “something Parliament should be looking into.” The Liberals had successfully defeated a motion calling for a similar study last April, during the previous Parliament.

READ MORE: Liberals reject committee study of plane certification amid Max 8 concerns[1] Doherty told iPolitics on Wednesday that Canadians deserve to have assurance that the aircraft they’re getting on is safe. “They need to know that we’re not just rubber stamping it, as to what we’ve seen in the past,” he said.

The Globe and Mail reported in December that Canada’s oversight of the 737 Max included several critical blind spots that led Transport Canada to approve the faulty aircraft before it flew, and allowed the plane to continue to fly after two deadly crashes. [2] The investigation revealed Transport Canada had outsourced much of its regulatory oversight to the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority, which, in turn, had abdicated much of the responsibilities to aircraft manufacturer Boeing.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau told the Globe last week that Ottawa is preparing changes to the commercial aircraft vetting process that will offer Transport Canada more independence to scrutinize new planes. [3] Doherty said Parliament also owes it to the families of the Canadian victims in last March’s crash to get changes to certification policies. “Families are still being victimized time and again, every time that there’s inaction.

These families want to see something being done, they want to know that the same is not going to take place for another family,” he said. Doherty said it’s important the study take place as soon as possible, noting recent reports[4] that debris had been found in the fuel tanks of some 737 Max aircraft. The plane is set to be re-certified sometime this year.

“That speaks volumes to as to why Canada should be setting their own parameters in terms of recertification of this aircraft,” he said.

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References

  1. ^ Liberals reject committee study of plane certification amid Max 8 concerns (ipolitics.ca)
  2. ^ reported in December (www.theglobeandmail.com)
  3. ^ told the Globe last week (www.theglobeandmail.com)
  4. ^ recent reports (www.theguardian.com)

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