I would not write a story about this, but I feel that maybe some balance is needed compared to the way I saw this incident in the media. My mother even asked me about the story yesterday, because she saw it in the news: “Did you hear about the Boeing 737 MAX that had the emergency?”
Air Canada 737 MAX moves due to engine problems
Aviation regulators around the world are starting to abyss the Boeing 737 MAX, which means airlines are removing these aircraft from storage and preparing to put them back into service.
Since February 24, 2020, one of Air Canada’s 737 MAXs has been stored at Pinal Airpark in Marana, Arizona. The climate there makes it an ideal place to store aircraft for the long term.
The plan was that the aircraft with the registration code C-FSNQ would fly from Marana to Montreal on 22 December 2020 with the flight number AC2358, so that it could start preparations for the return to service.
Well, the plane departed according to schedule with a crew of three people, but then a few were issued. As noted by The Aviation Herald:
- The crew received a hydraulic low-pressure indicator from the left engine; the crew worked through checklists and consulted the shipping and maintenance and decided to continue the flight to Montreal with just one engine
- Shortly afterwards, the crew gets an indication of the fuel imbalance on the left, at which point the crew shuts off the engine.
- The crew then declares a ‘PAN PAN’ (meaning the situation is urgent, but not an immediate danger), and redirects to Tucson, Arizona.
- The plane landed 80 minutes after the initial departure in Tucson, which was only 35 miles away from an airport.
- The plane is still on the ground in Tucson from now on.
Flight route for the derivative Air Canada 737 MAX
Is this situation a big deal?
If we look at the Facebook comments of mainstream media articles on this, it seems that most people suggest that the 737 MAX should be shut down and never flown again. After all, how could the plane have a serious problem so soon after it was put back into service?
It does not really touch on the nuances of this situation:
- The 737 MAX was not grounded due to engine problems, but rather due to problems with the magnification system (MCAS), which was intended to improve the pitch of the aircraft; in other words, it was an unrelated problem why the 737 MAX was founded in the first place
- Commercial aircraft have engine problems that cause distractions every day, and this is almost never a news story because it is so common and no one is in danger
Now, the 737 MAX will be much more researched than other aircraft in the coming months, and with good reason. The public’s confidence in the 737 MAX is low and will only return if the aircraft works without problems for many months / flights. But it’s also not surprising that the 737 MAX will be in the news every time something happens, regardless of the severity.
Although we do not know the cause of this incident, it probably has more to do with the plane that has been stored for so long, rather than anything about the 737 MAX as such.
While mechanics are doing an excellent job of putting planes back into service after extensive storage, I still suspect we’ll see some incidents (hopefully nothing too serious) over the next few years involving aircraft that have just come out of long-term storage. .
For example, earlier this year there was an incident where a Wizz Air UK Airbus A321 caused a rapid rise to slow down because a pitot tube was blocked due to insect activity. This follows after the plane was in storage for several months due to the pandemic. I suspect this will not be the last time something like this happens.
An Air Canada 737 MAX being transported to Montreal had some engine problems after takeoff in Arizona, causing a diversion. While it obviously looks bad for Boeing if a 737 MAX has a problem, I personally would not read too much about it.
This is different from the problem the 737 MAX was based on in the first place, and it’s more likely to have to do with the plane that flew the last time, rather than anything related to the “MAX.”
But I’m also not surprised that the 737 MAX is likely to be in the news every time there’s an incident, no matter how minor.
What do you make of this Air Canada 737 MAX incident?