The government of Canada has grounded the Boeing 737 Max after reviewing new data suggesting the flight profile of the recent crashed Ethiopian Airlines aircraft showed similarities to that of last year's crashed Lion Air aircraft.
Canadian transport minister Marc Garneau stresses the similarities are still unverified, but the move by Canada breaks with the US Federal Aviation Administration and will force Canada's two largest carriers to ground several dozen aircraft.
"I am issuing a safety notice. This safety notice restricts commercial passenger flights [by] any operator of Boeing 737 Max 8 or 9, whether domestic or foreign, from arriving, departing or overflying Canadian airspace," says Garneau.
"This safety notice is effective immediately," he adds.
Boeing has insisted the 737 Max is safe, and the FAA has not grounded the 737 Max, saying it has not yet received data sufficient to warrant such a move.
The move comes after Transport Canada received "new information… from validated satellite tracking data suggesting… possible, although unproven, similarities in the flying" profiles of the Ethiopian and Lion Air aircraft, says Garneau.
"My experts have looked at this and compared it to the flight that occurred with Lion Air, and there are not conclusive similarities that exceed a certain threshold in our minds with respect to a possible cause of what happened in Ethiopia," he adds. "It is something that points… in that direction."
Transport Canada informed the FAA of its grounding decision this morning, and the FAA responded without "pushback", Garneau says.
"There was absolutely no political pressure," he says.
Air Canada operates 24 737 Max 8s and WestJet operates 13 aircraft of the same type, according to Cirium's Fleets Analyzer. Canadian airlines had operated the world's third largest fleet of 737 Max, after Chinese and US carriers.
"There will be some disruption. There's no doubt about that," Garneau says.
The Canadian airlines had until recently stood behind their decisions to keep operating the 737 Max, and neither responded immediately to requests for comment.