Canada grounds Boeing 737 Max 8 planes, effective immediately
Published Wednesday, March 13, 2019 8:46AM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 13, 2019 2:18PM PDT
Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau has issued a safety notice grounding all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft across Canada, effective immediately.
Garneau announced the move Wednesday morning, citing "new data" that warrants temporarily grounding the passenger jets as a precautionary measure.
"This safety notice restricts commercial passenger flights from any operator of the Boeing 737 Max 8 or Max 9 variant aircraft, whether domestic or foreign, from arriving, departing or overflying Canadian airspace," Garneau told reporters.
Several of the planes were in the air at the time of the announcement, including Vancouver-bound flights from Calgary and Toronto.
The decision followed hours after Sunwing Airlines became the first Canadian company to voluntarily suspend use of the Max 8 jets.
The airline stressed that it wasn't motivated by safety concerns, but "evolving commercial reasons," including airspace restrictions on the Max 8 imposed by some destination countries.
Air passenger advocate Gabor Lukcacs told CTV News he believes Canada has made the right decision.
“We are pleased about this,” said Lukcacs, founder of Air Passenger Rights. “We have to bear in mind that there are some serious and reasonable concerns about the safety of this aircraft and until further evidence can verify that this aircraft is safe, the prudent thing is to ground the aircraft.”
In the meantime, he believes it is reasonable for passengers to expect delays and cancellations over the next 48 hours as airlines scramble to rebook, but he expects the delays and cancellations to last until the end of Friday.
“It is not mission impossible. It may mean having to rent aircraft or borrow aircraft…but airlines will have to take necessary steps to make sure they get passengers to their necessary destinations.”
The European Union and 50 other countries grounded the Max 8 before Canada, pending the outcome of an investigation into Sunday's tragedy.
Garneau said the government received brand new analysis Wednesday that prompted its decision to follow suit.
"The information has to do with satellite tracking data that is collected when certain aircraft take off and it provides an indication of what their course is, but also their vertical profile and any fluctuations in that vertical profile," the minister said.
Experts compared the information to last October's Lion Air crash, which also involved a Max 8, and found evidence "suggesting a possible, though unproven, similarity in the flight profile."
"I caution that this new information is not conclusive and we must await further evidence, hopefully from the voice and data records (in the Ethiopian Airlines crash)," Garneau added.