Government of Canada introduces additional requirements to allow for the return to service of the Boeing 737 MAX
On November 18, 2020, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released an Airworthiness Directive for the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, confirming the aircraft could return to service in U.S. airspace.
On January 18, 2021, Transport Canada issued an Airworthiness Directive 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 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 the process, Transport Canada is lifting the existing Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) which prohibits the commercial operation of the aircraft in Canadian airspace on January 20, 2021. This will allow 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 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.
Frequently asked questions
Q1. What is an Airworthiness Directive? What changes are required by the Airworthiness Directive for the Boeing 737 MAX?
A1. In accordance with the Canadian Aviation Regulations, an Airworthiness Directive may be issued by the Minister in regards to an aeronautical product should there be an unsafe condition identified. The Airworthiness Directive specifies the unsafe condition, the affected aeronautical products, the corrective action(s) required, and the required timeline for completion of the corrective action(s).
The Airworthiness Directive for the 737 MAX includes the following required actions:
- Installation of a new version of software for the Flight Control Computer to address the issues related to the Maneuvering Augmentation Characteristics System (MCAS);
- A revision to the MAX Display System (MDS) software to ensure that the AOA DISAGREE alert is available on aeroplanes as a standard configuration;
- The addition of coloured caps on circuit breakers for the stick shaker, to allow for ease of identification during the use of an optional procedure included in the Canadian Aircraft Flight Manual Supplement permitting the disabling of a nuisance stick shaker; and
- Wire routing changes for the horizontal stabilizer trim system to be modified in order to improve physical separation of the wiring.
Q2. What is an Interim Order? What is included in the Interim Order for the Boeing 737 MAX?
A2. The Aeronautics Act provides the Minister of Transport the authority to issue an Interim Order to address a significant risk, direct or indirect, to aviation safety or the safety of the public. Interim Orders are in effect for a period of fourteen (14) days and can be extended for up to one year with Governor in Council approval.
This Interim Order will mean that all Canadian air operators have to incorporate requirements outlined in Transport Canada Civil Aviation’s (TCCA) Operational Evaluation (OE) Report for the Boeing 737 MAX into their amended training programs for approval by the Minister. Air operators will also be required to ensure that pilots operating the Boeing 737 MAX have completed applicable training program requirements outlined in the TCCA OE Report prior to training, ferry or positioning flights.
Q3. What are the next steps now that Canada has issued an Airworthiness Directive and Interim Order? How long will it be before we would see these aircraft in operation in Canadian airspace?
A3. The return to service of the Boeing 737 MAX is complex and the validation of the design changes in December 2020 was a major step. Transport Canada has now issued the Airworthiness Directive (AD) that which outlines the actions Canadian operators must take to ensure their aircraft is safe to fly again.
Transport Canada has also issued an Interim Order that clearly outlines the required training that Canadian air crew will be required to complete to operate the aircraft safely.
These steps address the department’s safety concerns. Transport Canada has been working collaboratively with Canadian airline operators and air crew to implement the enhanced flight crew procedures and training.
During the validation process, Canadian airline operators have been made aware of the requirements and therefore are well equipped to return to service. Canadian airline operators have also collaborated in the development of the new training program.
Canadian operators are ready and will be planning the return to service of the aircraft in the coming days and weeks. The current airspace restriction (NOTAM) will be lifted at 23:59:59 on January 20, 2021, which will allow the return to service of the aircraft.
Q4. What are the differences with the FAA-approved aircraft? Can you explain the additional safety requirements Canada will require?
A4. Prior to a return to service of the aircraft in Canadian airspace, Transport Canada will also require:
- modifications to the aircraft as specified in the Canadian Airworthiness Directive;
- airlines to conduct maintenance on the aircraft to ensure it will operate safely, given the aircraft have been in storage for some time;
- incorporation of the revised pilot training syllabus into the Transport Canada-approved training program for each Canadian airline; and
- pilots operating the Boeing 737 MAX have completed applicable training program requirements prior to training, ferry or positioning flights.
Specifically, the Canadian design changes for the Boeing 737 MAX will include an enhanced flight deck procedure that provides the option for a pilot-in-command to disable a loud and intrusive warning system (commonly called the “stick shaker”) when the system has been erroneously activated by a failure in the angle of attack sensor system. This feature will effectively reduce pilot workload given what has been learned from the two tragic accidents, and has been fully evaluated by Transport Canada’s flight test pilots.
There will also be differences in training including that associated with the enhanced flight deck procedure.
Q5. When will other aircraft be allowed to fly into Canada?
A5. Once the NOTAM is lifted at 23:59:59 on January 20, 2021, allowing for commercial operations of the Boeing 737 MAX to resume in Canadian airspace, foreign operators will also be allowed to fly their Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into Canada.
Q6. If Transport Canada requires additional safety requirements, does this mean it is not safe to fly the FAA-approved 737-MAX aircraft?
A6. The U.S. FAA is the state of design for the Boeing aircraft, and therefore the FAA has the final say on the aircraft design for U.S. operators. Transport Canada’s decision to put additional safety measures in place does not imply that a U.S.-configured aircraft is inherently unsafe.
In Transport Canada’s opinion, however, the additional measures to be required in Canada will provide the option for a pilot to reduce the cockpit workload in specific conditions, and also impose further clarity and emphasis on certain aspects of the pilot training syllabus.
Q7. How can Canadians be assured that this aircraft will be safe to fly?
A7. Transport Canada is committed to keeping Canadians, the travelling public, and the transportation system safe and secure. As part of this commitment, the department has an aircraft certification team that is globally recognized as being a leading authority on certification.
This team worked exhaustively for 20 months in its independent review and testing of the Boeing 737 MAX prior to taking the decision to validate the aircraft. This decision was only taken once the department was fully satisfied that all its safety concerns were addressed, and that enhanced flight crew procedures and training were identified.
While global certification authorities have worked extensively together in the review of this aircraft, the decision to certify/validate an aircraft is one that Canada has taken independently. The differences between the FAA and Transport Canada in procedures and training demonstrate these independent actions.
Transport Canada has issued its own Airworthiness Directive to include design features above and beyond what was required by the FAA. Also, Transport Canada has mandated the enhanced training associated with the 737 MAX for Canadian operators.
Q8. How much work was involved by Transport Canada to complete this process? Why did it take so long to clear this aircraft for service?
A8. Transport Canada has spent well over 15,000 review hours on the Boeing 737 MAX. This review has seen Canada take a significant leadership role in the overall project helping shape many decisions taken by the state of design authorities, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It has also resulted in Transport Canada issuing its own unique Airworthiness Directive as opposed to the adoption of the FAA Airworthiness Directive.
Throughout the department’s independent review, it 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 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.
Over the last 20 months, Transport Canada’s civil aviation safety experts, by their rigour and thoroughness, have ensured the safety concerns the department had identified have been addressed. Canadians and the airline industry can rest assured that Transport Canada has diligently addressed all safety issues prior to permitting this aircraft to return to service in Canadian airspace.
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