Transport Canada permits the Boeing 737 MAX to fly in Canadian Airspace (With Conditions)

Authors: Greg Landry, Drew Tyler, Benjamin P. Bedard

Following Transport Canada’s extensive 20-month review, Boeing 737 MAX (the “737 MAX”) aircraft will be permitted to return to commercial operation in Canadian airspace as of January 21, 2021.

Transport Canada had prohibited 737 MAX aircraft from operating in Canada since March 2019 due to their involvement in two tragic accidents, having identified several safety issues with the aircraft’s software and hardware.

In addition to maintenance to ensure operational safety given the 737 MAX’s lack of flying in the past 20 months, Canadian operators seeking to return their 737 MAX aircraft to service will be required to make several aircraft modifications, as well as incorporating a revised pilot training syllabus into their Transport Canada-approved training programs.

Transport Canada’s Airworthiness Directive No. CF-2021-02 sets out the specific modifications required to be made on a Canadian operator’s 737 MAX. These modifications relate to the 737 MAX’s “erroneous maneuvering characteristics augmentation system” (“MCAS”) activation, which renders flight crews unable to control the aircraft’s flight path. Notably, while the United States (“U.S.”) Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) Airworthiness Directives concerning the 737 MAX had previously been adopted by Transport Canada, Airworthiness Directive No. CF-2021-02 includes aircraft modifications which go above and beyond those required in the U.S.

Transport Canada’s aircraft modifications or “Corrective Actions” follow from Boeing’s Alert Service Bulletin (SB) 737-22A1342 and Special Attention SB 737-31-1860, and include the following:

  • Installing and verifying a new version of the Flight Control Computer Operational Program Software to address the issues related to the MCAS;
  • Revising the MAX Display System software to ensure the angle of attack (“AOA”) DISAGREE alert is available in the aircraft’s standard configuration;
  • Modifying the wire routing for the horizontal stabilizer trim system to improve physical separation of the wiring;
  • Adding coloured caps to the stick shaker’s circuit breakers for easy identification if the pilot needs to disable the intrusive warning system;
  • Revising the applicable Airplane Flight Manual to exclude information from the FAA Airworthiness Directive;
  • Testing the aircraft’s AOA sensor system following software revisions; and
  • Performing an operation readiness flight when all other Corrective Actions have been completed.

Additionally, Transport Canada has issued an Interim Order Respecting Certain Training Requirements (B-737-8 and Other Aircraft), requiring Canadian operators of the 737 MAX to incorporate new training requirements into their Transport Canada-approved training programs. Only after a person has completed training in respect of these new requirements may they act a pilot-in-command or second-in-command onboard a 737 MAX.

Lastly, though the Airworthiness Directive and Interim Order apply exclusively to Canadian operators, Transport Canada has indicated that foreign operators will also be permitted to fly their 737 MAX aircraft into Canada once the existing restriction on commercial operations in Canadian airspace is removed.

According to Transport Canada’s Backgrounder on the new 737 MAX requirements, Canada intends to remove the existing notice to airmen (“NOTAM”) prohibiting the 737 MAX’s commercial operation in Canadian airspace shortly before midnight on January 21, 2021.