WestJet expects 737 Max software certification next month, planes to remain grounded

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20 September 2019 by Paige Ellis, BNN Bloomberg

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WestJet Airlines Ltd. says Boeing Co. has completed a critical software update to its troubled 737 Max jets, although the carrier still doesn’t know when the grounded aircraft will return to service, according to an internal email obtained by BNN Bloomberg.

“Boeing has now finalized Flight Control Computer software version 12.1.2 which is slated for certification next month,” wrote Scott Wilson, WestJet’s vice-president of flight operations, in the email. 

“As we enter the seventh month of the airspace closure restricting Max operations, we are beginning to gain enough clarity to start providing information that doesn’t change on us a week later,” he added. 

WestJet, like Air Canada, recently scrubbed the Max from its holiday schedule. The company operates 13 of Boeing’s Max aircraft. 

The grounding of the jets, which were banned from Canadian airspace in the wake of two deadly crashes, were cited by Statistics Canada this week as the chief source of a whopping 10 per cent year-over-year increase in airfares in August.

Wilson also stated in the email that the airline’s management doesn’t know when the 737 Max planes will be cleared to fly by regulators. 

“It is the actual path back to service that has more indefinite timelines and regulatory complications,” Wilson wrote. 

He added federal regulators are “aligned” on the changes Boeing needs to incorporate into the aircraft to prevent further accidents from happening.

However, WestJet will send a team to Boeing’s training facility in Miami next week to test the new software update “to experience the operating characteristics” during a flight simulation, Wilson said. 

In a July interview with BNN Bloomberg, WestJet CEO Ed Sims said the grounding has had a “very significant impact” on the airline’s operations. 

But he insisted he is still confident in Boeing. 

“I believe in the MAX, I believe in the reliability of Boeing,” he said at the time. “I have very strong confidence that they will move beyond those issues.”