How a grounded 737 Max fleet is hitting customers and airlines
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How a grounded 737 Max fleet is hitting customers and airlines

September 16, 2019


[Ian Hanomansing] This is WestJet’s Mission Control. 24 hours a day. Seven days a week. Every plane in the sky and on the ground is monitored. From watching storms to handling delays the hour to hour operation can be filled with uncertainty. But for the last six months so has the long-term schedule. That is the responsibility of Brian Zznote-tins. Since Transport Canada grounded the Max 8 in March his team has been forced to write and rewrite the summer schedule five times. Can you show me on here where the Max’s should be? Yeah. These are all the Max’s. So what they’re doing is they’re they’re blocked out. [Hanomansing] Take a look at one of the first days after the grounding. March 16th, there were 18 Max 8 flights canceled. Five and a half months later some roots like Halifax to Paris and the direct from Vancouver to Regina remain suspended. And WestJet is about to announce a Christmas schedule without Max flights joining Air Canada and Sun Wing which announced their Max’s won’t be in service before next May. With the Max out of it’s December schedule that will likely affect some of the holiday
routes WestJet was considering like a direct flight between Calgary and Hawaii. Still while the Max 8’s represent seven percent of WestJet’s fleet Zznote-tins says they have only eliminated two percent of their flights. What’s your reaction? What’s the impact on you? 13 airplanes worth of flying is 13 airplanes worth of revenue. That we’re not generating and we have a lot of those costs we’re still paying for the airplane so it’s a — it’s expensive to have an airplane and not be able to fly it. The 737 is the world’s most popular airplane. The Max, the newest model promised so much. From better fuel economy to a longer range there were already more than 350 in service worldwide. 41 here in Canada. But now they’ve been reduced to this. WestJet’s 13 Max’s are stored at airports across the country. Powered up once a week taxied and then like this one in Calgary being brought back to a cavernous hangar. And parked. John Kelly is WestJet’s vice president of technical operations. His team has been keeping these jets on standby since mid-March. You’re confident that it’s ready to go if it needs to go? I am, absolutely. Like an exotic sports car these 150 million dollar jets need close attention. Besides that short ride once a week there is a checklist. Gauges, fluids, they go through it every two days. It’s stunning to me. They’re complex machines. And you know, through years and years of development I think this the original 737 came online I think in 1966. But interestingly Kelly says during this grounding it’s not the Max’s that have had the biggest impact on the maintenance schedule. Tell me what the challenges are to have a fleet of thirteen jets like this grounded in Canada? Well, it puts a strain on the rest of the fleet, right. It’s tough to fly the schedule. Like I said, we pulled some planes out of heavy maintenance to help fly the schedule and support it. But we’re doing a lot more work on the other airplanes right to keep them healthy and keep them flying. For the first time, the Airlines vice-president of flight operations Scott Wilson is speaking publicly about the safety of the Max 8 and how WestJet dealt with this unprecedented situations. Beginning with Indonesia’s Lion Air tragedy last October. It was only after that crash that Boeing revealed it had embedded in the Max 8 the flight control software that likely contributed to both crashes. That’s created a bit of a trust deficit, there’s no doubt about it. I shared that myself and our pilots share that. And you told Boeing? Yeah, absolutely and they are well aware that they’ve got to basically rebuild that gap. Wilson says after Lion Air Transport Canada and the three Canadian Max 8 Airlines worked with Boeing to come up with new training and checklists. What he calls a made in Canada solution. And that made them confident the Max 8 was safe. Some people might wonder, how could you be so sure of that. And that comes back from a knowledge again. You know, I look at it a little differently and I get a very unique perspective than the traveling public. I’m trained on the aircraft. I have a relationship with the manufacturer and how information flows back and forth. A relationship with Transport Canada and the FAA. We’re all working together. And the information that we had at that time led us to believe that at that moment that there was no increased risk to operating the aircraft and firmly believed it. But then came Ethiopia. And detailed satellite data that suggested a connection between the two crashes. The mcast software seemed to be a factor. Something Boeing later confirmed was likely. For almost six months, the aviation industry has been waiting for Boeing and the FAA the U.S. regulator to address the problem. Wilson says WestJet is confident the Max’s will soon be ready to carry passengers. There’s some things with this aircraft that you know really takes the 737 to the next level. Obviously, the known issue aside that’s being actively corrected with the manufacturer and through certification. WestJet is repositioning jets occasionally? Yeah, we move them as required in and out of maintenance facilities. Basically we do it as a test flight. And we move it just for that purpose is just the operating flight trip. Is that safe? Yes, it is. Once the Max is re-certified WestJet will be able to get them in the air quickly. The planes will need a quick software download and the pilots who have been flying other 737s will get some training and test flights. You know, we’ve got 24 years experience of operating the 737s with Boeing. A very safe record for this aircraft is one of the safest aircraft that flies today. My trust will come on a show forward basis and how they’ve showed up through post-Ethiopian and how they worked and work to try to resolve this. But he says the next challenge may be out of the airlines control. Persuading nervous travelers the Max 8 is safe. And so now Andrew we all wait to see when the max eights will be certified to
fly again The Washington Post is reporting that
Boeing is estimating a return to service quote early in the fourth quarter so
perhaps October or November and is that the timing in Canada as well well
Transport Canada isn’t giving us any kind of time estimate at all but they
did say that they’re doing their own review of how Boeing in the US Federal
Aviation agency addressed the safety concerns with the maxi

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