Exclusive-Canada regulator to approve Boeing 737 MAX design change as soon as Thursday -sources

MONTREAL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Transport Canada is set to announce approval of design changes to Boeing’s 737 MAX as early as Thursday, in a first step toward bringing the aircraft back to the country’s skies after a near two-year flight ban, two sources familiar with the matter said.

FILE PHOTO: Grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen parked at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, U.S. November 17, 2020. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

The Canadian regulator, however, is not expected to issue an immediate airworthiness directive, which is needed to help clear the way for the lifting of the ban on commercial flights.

Both of the sources spoke on condition of anonymity because Transport Canada’s decision has not yet been made public.

Canada was one of the last major nations before the U.S. to ground the MAX in March 2019, following two crashes that killed a total of 346 people.

A spokeswoman for Transport Canada declined comment on Wednesday night.

Transport Canada’s move would follow earlier announcements by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) along with Boeing’s main regulator, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which lifted its own ban on Nov. 18.

Canada’s two largest carriers Air Canada and privately-held WestJet Airlines both fly the aircraft.

Brazil’s Gol last week became the world’s first airline to fly the Boeing 737 MAX commercially since the planes were grounded, while American Airlines is resuming commercial service at the end of the month.

Like EASA, Transport Canada has previously said there will be some differences between what the FAA has approved for the MAX and what Canada will require for its airlines, such as in training.

“The fact that Canada has chosen to include additional measures does not imply that aircraft flying under the FAA’s oversight are unsafe,” Transport Canada said by email in November.

Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese and Aurora Ellis