Air Canada 737 MAX Has Engine Issues & Diverts: Nonstory?

Filed Under: Air Canada

I wasn’t going to write a story about this, but I feel like perhaps some balance is needed compared to how I’ve otherwise seen this incident portrayed in the media. My mom even asked me about this 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 diverts due to engine issues

Aviation regulators around the world are starting to unground the Boeing 737 MAX, meaning that airlines are taking these planes out of 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 planes long-term.

The plan was that the plane with the registration code C-FSNQ would fly from Marana to Montreal with the flight number AC2358 on December 22, 2020, so it could start preparations for returning to service.

Well, the plane departed as scheduled with a three person crew, but then a couple of issued occurred. As noted by The Aviation Herald:

  • The crew received a left engine hydraulic low pressure indication; the crew worked through checklists and consulted with dispatch and maintenance, and decided to continue the flight to Montreal with just one engine
  • Shortly thereafter the crew received an indication of a fuel imbalance from the left side, at which point the crew shut down the engine
  • The crew then declared a “PAN PAN” (which means the situation was urgent, but not an immediate danger), and diverted to Tucson, Arizona
  • The plane landed in Tucson 80 minutes after its initial departure, which was from an airport just 35 miles away
  • The plane is still on the ground in Tucson as of now

Flight path for the diverted Air Canada 737 MAX

Is this situation a big deal?

Looking at the Facebook comments of mainstream media articles about this, most people seem to suggest that the 737 MAX should be taken out of service and should never be flown again. After all, how could the plane have a serious issue so soon after returning to service?

That doesn’t really get at the nuance of this situation:

  • The 737 MAX wasn’t grounded due to engine issues, but rather due to issues with the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), which was intended to improve the pitch stability of the aircraft; in other words, this was an unrelated issue to why the 737 MAX was grounded in the first place
  • Commercial aircraft have engine issues that cause diversions every single day, and it’s almost never a news story because it’s so common, and no one is in danger

Now, the 737 MAX will face a lot more scrutiny than other aircraft in the coming months, and that’s for good reason. Public confidence in the 737 MAX is low, and will only return when the plane operates as designed without issues for many months/flights. But it’s also not surprising that every time something does happen, no matter the severity, the 737 MAX will be in the news.

While we don’t know the cause of this incident, it’s likely that this has more to do with the plane having been stored for so long, rather than anything about the 737 MAX as such.

While mechanics do a great job with getting planes back into service after extended storage, I still suspect we’ll see a few incidents over the next few years (hopefully nothing too serious) that involve planes that just got out of long-term storage.

For example, earlier this year there was an incident where a Wizz Air UK Airbus A321 had a high-speed aborted takeoff, because a pitot tube was blocked due to insect activity. This followed the plane having been in storage for several months due to the pandemic. I suspect that won’t be the last time that something like that happens.

Bottom line

An Air Canada 737 MAX being ferried to Montreal suffered some engine issues after takeoff in Arizona, causing a diversion. While it obviously looks bad for Boeing when a 737 MAX has any sort of an issue, personally I wouldn’t read too much into this.

This is different than the issue that got the 737 MAX grounded in the first place, and it’s more likely that this has to do with the plane not having flown for a long time, rather than anything related to the “MAX.”

But I’m also not surprised that the 737 MAX will likely 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?

Comments
  1. your first bullet point contradicts your second.

    I seriously doubt they decided to continue to Montreal on just 1 engine. They likely decided to continue after the hydraulic system issue.

    Then after the fuel imbalance, and subsequently shutting down the engine, they diverted.

    Any crew that shut down an engine (on a 2 engine plane) and continue flying 1000+ miles would have certificate action taken.

  2. Ditto @Pierre ^^^. But the next time 737 MAX pilots experience a problem with unexpected pitch-down (or pitch-up) inputs and have any problem correcting for it during takeoff climb, it will be a nightmare redux for bumbling Boeing.

  3. hen planes roll off the assembly line and put into service they need to fly, not sit on the ground for extended periods of time, period. There are countless o rings seals other moving parts that need to function. Example, if you have a condo or second home it is worse to leave your refrigerator unplugged rather let it run at minimum temperature.

    At the end of the day what the $%%#$ do some people think when these birds sit. I agree Boeing can not get out of their way and the upper management be canned with a new CEO be brought in.
    Let’s give the airline mechanics do their job and as Lucky said things like this will happen.

    Happy New Year all

  4. Non-story.

    There will be an increased number of mechanical “gremlins” that occur on the first few flights after prolonged storage. This will be for all types, not specific to the Max. Nothing major, small things like rubber seals, gaskets, switches, etc. There will be a few diversions during maintenance flights, a few logbook snags, a few cancelations. Its just the way it is. Machines of any kind, be it cars, planes, motorbikes etc, do not do well with prolonged storage and non-use, regardless of how well the maintenance program during their sit.

    Again, non-story. To be expected going forward.

  5. No matter the issues, Boeing 737 Max is a mistake. This plane is a patchwork. It is clear that airlines companies will have to deal with many other sorts of problem. Cross fingers no body will die in the future because of Boeing negligence.

  6. Non-Story. Through the 50s and 60s there were several crashes of say, Boeing 707s each year. That didn’t stop the flying public or ground the aircraft. Standards are just that much higher these days.

    Sort of similar to most of the wealthy world’s response to the pandemic, over-cautious (or at least, pretending to be) because those countries’ psyches forgot what it’s like to be worried about death by disease until now

  7. Non-story and the real story here is the complexities (and risks) associated with bringing jets parked in long term storage back to operational levels and this will be a major issue as the industry recovers. I personally won’t get on a MAX ever again (once was enough) and still think it is a problem of a plane but I don’t think the MAX is the issue in this AC story.

  8. When we lived in the middle east during a period of Islamic terrorism friends asked if we were worried. My stock answer was that we were not the target and felt safer there than anywhere in the western world.

    I will feel safer flying the Max than flying Airbus for quite a while in the future. There appears to be a dedicated anti-Boeing element that will continue to rant and rave and try to spread misinformation but they will eventually fade away.

  9. Ben, you literally declared in this article that max engine has some serious issue. After being in storage for long time, it could be anything. Sometimes we just have to wait to see what the issue was. Note that ferry flights are often flown with plane being not fully airworthy.

  10. @ Willem

    In the 50s and 60s, yes, standards were much lower and there was barely any competition or variants to speak of with regard to Boeing. That’s not the case today.

    So, put simply, apples and oranges.

  11. Could this become another unforeseen issue that initially wasn’t a problem. Is the Max now really safe to return to service or is it only a matter of time before another aircraft ends up causing more fatalities??

  12. Is this initially an unforeseen issue or just a one off problem? Or is it only a matter of time before the Max ends up with another aircraft causing fatalities

  13. I”d like to see proof that none of you that made those comments are not related to being profited by the Max returning to service. Sounds like a team put together by Boeing to insure that people will risk their lives so Boeing can profit. When they pull your child’s body from the wreckage be sure and voice your support some more. The Max is an aircraft that has failed repetitively and should be permanently grounded. It stands as an example of Corporation and go vernment collusion that has cost the lives of American citizens.

  14. It is a Non Story for Aviation Experts and people with some knowledge about planes. But for a layman it surely is a concerning issue. This is bad ad for Boeing 737 MAX.

    Boeing should just hope that the MAX flies without incident for a few years at least so that people can forgot the disasters and gain confidence to fly this aircraft type.

  15. This is just conflation of disparate issues. Boeing doesn’t build the engines and these planes have been sitting idle. Ferry flights are often used as shakedowns for new or recently repaired aircraft before returning them to service. In short, a non-event.

    For those that see Boeing as some sort of monster driven by greed, exactly how does Boeing profit from airplanes that fail? Were there issues? Yes. Did people die? Yes. But, anyone that thinks Boeing is knowingly and purposely making an unsafe aircraft doesn’t understand how a business works. The company has taken huge financial losses and suffered an enormous black mark on their record. One more mistake with this plane could end them in the aircraft industry altogether. Do you really think the would risk that further? Where would the profit be in continuing to build an unsafe aircraft? No Airline would but their plane. Doing so would put them out of business.

  16. Ben great article. Going forward there going to be glitches it just said everyone is picking on the 737 Max these things were not designed to be stored for long periods of time and it doesn’t matter how good the maintenance is is going to be food guilt glitches to get them back flying again. You should also track what happens with all the Airbus 380 s cuz I bet you they’re going to go through the same issue. As for the crew deciding what to do the airplane while in flight they were there we all were not so they made their best decision was what they had to work with, which was the aircraft was put back down safely.

  17. I personally would never step foot on any Max aircraft that has been sat in storage for over a year,

    And actually any max aircraft either brand spanking new or been in storage and had a software update.

    There’s loads of other aircraft available for use without historic nose dives to the ground available for flight travel

    Better safe than sorry,, it’s a no brainer,,

  18. My guess unfortunately goes to Boing’s employing too many unskilled employees with fake academic degrees from all over the world. These workers work only for their well paid salaries, but hardly with dedication for work of safety…, Like a nut missing here or there is not a matter of real concerns to them, finsh the work of shift quickly is the aim.

  19. I’m guessing this incident will cause many airlines to do more on-site maintenance checks at the desert storage locations before flying these long-idled planes back to their regular maintenance sites. Watch for the FAA to tighten the standards for non-revenue ferry flights.

  20. @fizzyboffs

    Are you then planning to fly all the A380, A330, A3XX that are currently in storage in the same facility? It was an engine problem. Do these Airbus airplanes only use rubber bands?

    If you won’t fly an aircraft that had two fatal crashes in 2 years then I wonder why you might be flying Airbus? The A300 – A321 series have had 42 fatal crashes up to Dec 2017.

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