Transport Canada needs more stringent procedures for testing new aircraft after the Boeing 737 MAX disasters, and less reliance on the US Federal Aviation Authority, says a new federal report that examined the department’s approval of the aircraft.
The House of Commons Transport Committee’s long-awaited report came after hearings on the government’s role to fly the 737 MAX last year. It advises Transport Canada to review several of its policies, including how much it relies on the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to investigate new designs.
The 737 MAX became Boeing’s fastest-selling commercial aircraft when it was introduced four years ago. It soon became one of the industry’s deadliest. Over a period of five months in late 2018 and early 2019, two brand new 737 MAX planes crashed shortly after takeoff in Indonesia and Ethiopia, killing 346 people, including 18 Canadians.
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Both disasters were linked to the aircraft’s software that, if fed incorrect data from on-board sensors, caused the aircraft’s nose to point toward the ground. In both accidents, the pilots were unable to respond to software commands.
Transport Canada was one of several international regulators that approved the new design, but with limited independent investigation. Under international agreements, Canadian regulators did not self-certify the new 737 MAX, but relied on data from the FAA, which Transport Canada verified.
However, investigations in the United States found that Boeing withheld critical information from the FAA about the aircraft’s design, including faulty software, which meant that other regulators were also misled. It also found that the FAA had outsourced most of its inspection of the 737 MAX to Boeing engineers, allowing the company to approve its own design changes without disclosing the risks associated with the new software.
The 737 MAX crash has “stimulated reflection in Canada with regard to the foreign aircraft verification process; particularly the level of involvement of [Transport Canada] In process,” the committee says in the conclusion of the report.
“Witnesses recognizing that the safety of passengers and crew should always be the first priority” [at the hearings] I believe there is a need to further strengthen the aircraft certification and verification process in Canada.”
Most countries began grounding the 737 Max soon after the second crash in Ethiopia in March, 2019, which killed 157 people, including 18 Canadians. Ottawa refused to follow suit for several days, saying the data other countries were using was inconclusive.
The delay raised questions about Canada’s independence from the FAA. Mark Garneau, The transport minister at the time insisted that the plane was safe and that he would board one without hesitation. By the time Ottawa grounded the 737 MAX, about four days after the second crash, Canada and the US were the only outliers making the move within hours of each other.
Boeing spent a lot of time redesigning the software over the past two years, saying the 737 MAX is safe to fly. The new version of the aircraft was approved by international regulators earlier this year.
“The testimony of Transport Canada officials and witnesses representing the manufacturing sector strongly defended the quality, rigor and independence of Canada’s verification process,” the report said. “However, with regard to the verification of internationally manufactured aircraft, several witnesses cited Transport Canada as being highly dependent on [the FAA]Raising concerns of ‘rubber stamping’.”
The report makes 14 recommendations to improve Canada’s surveillance. Among them, the committee of Liberal, Conservative, New Democrat and Bloc Quebecois lawmakers said that Transport Canada should be required to perform a complete re-certification of any aircraft’s systems that are linked to a modified design, such as new software. This would mean that the regulator could no longer simply verify the work of the FAA, but would have to examine and certify any significant new design changes.
The committee also recommended that airlines become more involved in the pilot certification process, and that Transport Canada “review its policies to ensure that certification or verification of an aircraft does not occur until all critical issues or concerns have been addressed.” is not fully addressed.”
Calling on Transport Canada to examine its relationship with the FAA, the report recommends that Canada “review its international agreements” that call for harmonizing and streamlining aircraft certification. The report also recommended that Canada seeks “additional technical evaluation” during the verification of FAA certified aircraft.
The committee also called for the government to examine staffing and funding levels for Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Division to determine whether they needed support to strengthen the safety oversight process. It also calls on the department to prepare a “lesson learned” document over the next six months.
The report includes an additional recommendation from the NDP for a public inquiry into the Canadian aircraft’s approval, and why Ottawa didn’t land it after the first crash in October, 2018, which killed 189 people off the coast of Indonesia. Grounding the plane after the first crash could have saved lives if regulators around the world had followed suit.
A push for a public inquiry backed by the NDP and the Bloc was defeated last year by Liberal and Conservative MPs on the committee.
“Serious questions about certification of aircraft with characteristics unknown to many pilots are rightly asked,” the NDP appendix states. “In the course of this study, it became increasingly clear that the Canadian specialist in Transport Canada civil aviation has become overly reliant on certification of aircraft by other states, including the US.”
During testimony for the report, Air Canada Pilots Association chief executive Rob Giguerre criticized the FAA’s practice of postponing inspections. “We should not outsource this critical security work to the United States or any other country, which may in turn outsource part of its own regulatory oversight to industry.”
The report also includes submissions from flight control systems expert Gilles Primo, who said the flawed software’s design features meet “only the best safety standards”. Mr Primo urged regulators to examine how design changes on new aircraft affect other aspects of aircraft operations, rather than scrutinizing items such as software separately.
Chris Moore of Toronto, whose 24-year-old daughter Danielle was traveling to work with the United Nations when she died in an Ethiopian crash, said on Thursday that the report “shows there are many gaps in oversight in the verification process “
Mr Moore and Paul Njorog, a Hamilton man whose three children, wife and mother-in-law also died in the Ethiopia accident, testified before the committee in November. Mr Moore said there was a loss of confidence in the international certification process. “We need officers who are credible and have aircraft that are flyable,” he said in a statement.
The Granthshala and Mail’s investigation into the 737 MAX disasters revealed that Canada relied heavily on FAA data in aircraft approvals, and this created blind spots for Ottawa. Because Transport Canada only verifies information provided by the US regulator rather than assessing all aspects of the aircraft, it does not necessarily capture any defects in the design that the FAA missed.
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader, whose granddaughter, Samya Rose Stumo, died in an Ethiopian crash, wrote in The Granthshala in December that other international regulators need stricter oversight of the industry as the FAA has lost much of its reputation and a It was dominant. . “The FAA has long been influenced by aircraft manufacturers and airlines lobbying Congress and the White House,” Mr Nader said. This has had the effect of “not having an adequate budget, enforcement authority or sufficient technical staff.”
“As a result, the FAA has been swayed by industry apologists making the agency safer for Boeing, giving the giant company too much influence in the certification process of its own aircraft. This is regulatory relinquishment.”
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