TORONTO [PeterPaul.ca] — Several airlines have grounded Boeing’s newest jetliner, the 737 MAX 8, after the fatal crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, while others wait for the latest details from the investigation. As of Monday, at least 19 airlines have grounded the 737 MAX including Cayman Airways and Ethiopian but WestJet says they will continue to fly the aircraft.
We reached out to three Canadian airlines [Sunwing, WestJet and Air Canada] to request comment on their MAX 8 fleets but only WestJet has replied. In an emailed statement, spokesman Morgan Bell said the airline was confident with the MAX while adding that most of WestJet’s fleet uses the 737-800, the model below the MAX 8.
“WestJet remains confident in the safety of our Boeing 737 fleet including our 13 MAX-8 aircraft first introduced in 2017,” he said. “We have flown five different variants of the Boeing 737 since 1996, and the fleet currently operates around 450 safe daily B737 departures,” he added.
Currently, WestJet operates 13 MAX aircraft and 121 737s and have flown five different variants of the Boeing 737 since 1996, Bell said. The MAX has become Boeing’s best-selling aircraft and the incident involving its latest model will surely ripple throughout the industry.
Globally, there are 349 aircraft that have been delivered to airlines with over 4,000 more on order as of January 31, according to Boeing numbers. Ethiopian now have four 737 MAX 8’s in their fleet with another 25 on order as of Monday.
ET302 crashed six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa after initial data showed unstable vertical speeds right after takeoff. There were citizens from 35 countries, including 32 from Kenya and 18 from Canada, perished in the crash, according to a passenger manifest released by the airline. Some had transited through Toronto and were headed to Kenya, according to Member of Parliament Rob Oliphant, who posted an update on Twitter.
Sunday’s incident is the second involving the MAX 8 aircraft in five months. The first crash occurred on October 29 when Lion Air flight 610 crashed shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 aboard.
Investigation revealed that faulty data caused a new system, known as the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System or MCAS, to provide false Angle of Attack readings to the flight crew. The system pushed flight 610’s nose down at least 24 times, according to flight data readouts provided by investigators. This crash is still under investigation.
Boeing later issued a service bulletin to 737 MAX operators and instructed flight crews how to recover from uncommanded nose down issues, like the one that occurred on Lion Air flight 610 in October.