Italy scoops up wheat im­ports

Air­line CEO hopes in­ter­na­tional reg­u­la­tors will clear Boe­ing jet for flight by early Fe­bru­ary

Toronto Star - - BUSINESS - JULIE JOHNSSON AND KEVIN ORLAND

Ital­ian pasta in­creas­ingly is made of du­rum from the U.S. and Canada,

Boe­ing Co.’s 737 Max could be cleared to fly by early Fe­bru­ary in Canada as reg­u­la­tors work with their coun­ter­parts in the U.S. and Europe to re­cer­tify the grounded jet, ac­cord­ing to the head of Canada’s sec­ond-big­gest air­line.

Reg­u­la­tors are on track to lift the fly­ing ban world­wide early in 2020, Ed Sims, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of West­Jet Air­lines Ltd., said Fri­day. His com­ments echoed Euro­pean au­thor­i­ties ear­lier this week who de­scribed an ef­fort to pro­vide a “world­wide syn­chro­nous” re­turn for the Max. Boe­ing’s best­selling model was banned from com­mer­cial flight in March af­ter two crashes killed 346 peo­ple.

The some­times frac­tious re­la­tion­ships among safety au­thor­i­ties, and re­cent ten­sions be­tween the U.S. Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Boe­ing, have com­pli­cated the un­prece­dented re­view of the Max’s safety. Eight months into the ground­ing that plunged Boe­ing into cri­sis, the tim­ing of the plane’s re­turn re­mains a guess­ing game — to the frus­tra­tion of air­lines ea­ger to get the work­horse jet back in the skies.

“They have a num­ber of is­sues that they’re still look­ing to re­solve, and the is­sues are dif­fer­ent for each reg­u­la­tor,” Sims said in an in­ter­view. Is­sues for the Euro­pean Union Avi­a­tion Safety Agency, or EASA, can be slightly dif­fer­ent from is­sues that con­cern the FAA, he said. “So we would like the world’s reg­u­la­tors to move in uni­son, and we think, and we be­lieve, that will be some­time in the first quar­ter of next year.”

Ear­lier this year, there were hints that Trans­port Canada might take months longer than U.S. reg­u­la­tors to con­duct reviews and clear the Max for flight. While the FAA has lead over­sight of the U.S.-made jet, the agency’s rep­u­ta­tion has been bat­tered by ac­cu­sa­tions of overly cosy ties to Boe­ing.

West­Jet is in daily con­tact with Cana­dian reg­u­la­tors, Boe­ing and the FAA as they work on the fi­nal mile­stones to cer­tify re­vised flight-con­trol soft­ware, Sims said. Canada’s sec­ond-largest Max op­er­a­tor has taken the air­craft out of its sched­ules through Feb. 4, while U.S. air­lines aren’t plan­ning to re­sume flights un­til March.

Asked if a Fe­bru­ary come­back for the Max is pos­si­ble in Canada, Sims replied: “That’s what we’re work­ing with them to do. Ul­ti­mately, it’s en­tirely their de­ci­sion.”

The bud­get car­rier has per­formed weekly en­gine runs on its stored air­craft to en­sure they are in “tip-top con­di­tion,” and is study­ing how best to win back hes­i­tant cus­tomers, the CEO said. West­Jet plans to con­ducts its own “test and prov­ing flights” once the re­vamped soft­ware is down­loaded to the Max and the car­rier’s pi­lots are trained.

“Noth­ing will hap­pen about the re­open­ing of airspace un­less we, un­less the man­u­fac­turer, and most im­por­tantly the reg­u­la­tor have 100 per cent con­fi­dence in the safe oper­a­tion of that air­craft,” he said. “I will fly on the first com­mer­cial air­craft, be­cause I would fly on that air­craft this af­ter­noon.”

JEFF MCIN­TOSH THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Ten months af­ter two crashes that killed 346 peo­ple, West­Jet CEO Ed Sims says Boe­ing Co.’s 737 Max could be cleared to fly by early Fe­bru­ary in Canada.

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