Transport Canada To Approve 737 MAX This Week


Transport Canada is set to allow the commercial return of the Boeing 737 MAX this week. The agency published an Airworthiness Directive today outlining the changes required to reestablish airworthiness, saying that it 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.”

In addition to the revised training required of U.S. crews, most of the Transport Canada requirements mirror those of the FAA, including:

  • 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 colored 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.

“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,” said Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport. “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.”

Transport Canada’s primary break from FAA rules includes the recommendation for crews to disable the stick shaker in the event of a nuisance alarm. Meanwhile, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is expected to clear the 737 MAX by the end of January with an approach similar to Transport Canada’s.

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  1. Let’s examine these changes to the 737-MAX, one by one:

    1. “Installation of new software.” Fine. What does it do?
    How does it “address the issues” related to the MCAS? See
    below for answers.

    2. “Revision to MAX display system software.” What is that
    all about? “To ensure that AOA DISAGREE alert is available
    on aeroplanes as a standard configuration.” In other words,
    when computer system Alpha gives a different reading from
    computer system Beta, the pilot and crew will either see or
    hear an alarm immediately, rather than having to wait (and
    figure it out themselves, as they tried to do when things went
    wrong on the two overseas flights that crashed in 2019-20).
    That’s reassuring, especially the part about “available as a
    standard configuration” (translation: optional equipment,
    yours at no extra charge). But wouldn’t it be preferable
    to fix the problem, rather than install a new gauge that
    notifies you a few seconds in advance, so you can draw
    up a will and say your prayers? “I could not stop for
    Death, so he kindly stopped for me.” Moreover, why
    would the new system even need such an alert, when
    the whole purpose of having it is to correct, adjust
    and regulate the discrepancies that haunted the old
    one? The only explanation is that the new system
    isn’t new at all. It’s the same system as before—
    federated, not integrated–with an alarm bell (or
    red light) that signals distress, thus giving the
    crew a few precious seconds to make peace with
    God, and tell all the passengers to do likewise?
    At least the alert is gratis: the best things in
    life are still free, even as it is about to end.
    Pardon me for asking, but does the “aeroplane”
    have any other “options,” or should the brave
    mail carriers who fly them bail out, before the
    gauge hits the fan belt? That could be rather
    disagreeable, after all.

    3. “The addition of colored caps on circuit breakers
    for the stick shaker, to allow for ease of identification.”
    If you can’t identify the stick shaker, especially when
    it’s shaking, I daresay you shouldn’t be in the cockpit.
    But if it adds to the decor (as opposed to the decorum)
    of a flight emergency, I’m all for it. But please, don’t
    call the shaking of the stick a “nuisance,” except when
    it really is one. The last thing you want anyone to do
    is to “disable” the stick shaker. That’s like muzzling
    your beloved dog for barking in the middle of the night
    lest it wake up the neighbors, while a prowler is on the
    roof of your home, seeking entry to your bedroom. In
    situations like that, the stick is not only your best friend,
    but the only thing keeping you (and everyone else in
    bed, or on board) alive. Nothing to shake a stick at–
    and far more effective than any warning light or bell.
    Dismantling it is the last thing you want to do, since
    that might well be the last thing you ever get to do.

    4. “Wire routing changes for the horizontal stabiliser
    trim . . . to improve physical separation of the wiring.”
    Who could object to that? Except, how and why did
    the wiring get tangled up in the first place? Is it still
    tangled up, elsewhere on the aircraft? What does
    the word “improved” mean? Less tangled, untangled,
    or tangled in a different way from before? How many
    lawyers does it take to tangle a sentence, to prevent
    someone in authority from serving a life sentence?
    Isn’t George Washington’s advice about entangling
    alliances prophetic, in ways that he never intended?

    Add it all up, and the result is nada. Boeing didn’t
    do anything to make the 737-MAX safer, or to grapple
    intelligently and conscientiously with its major design
    flaws. Instead, they used shreds and patches, plus
    rhetoric and red tape, to cover their bald tire tracks.
    Beware the jabberwock, O Canada. Don’t fly from
    Victoria to Everett, or anywhere else on the map.
    The queen is not amused. Neither is the captain.