The federal government has approved design changes to the Boeing 737 Max that will allow the plane to fly again in Canada after it was banned around the world last year following two deadly crashes.
Transport Canada informed the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday that it has validated a series of proposed changes to the 737 Max, and expects to make a public announcement in Ottawa on Thursday.
Ottawa will require pilots to take additional simulator training on the revised 737 Max, and additional cockpit procedures will be implemented before the plane would return to service at Canada’s major airlines, said the department’s director-general of civil aviation, Nicholas Robinson.
The plane has been grounded since last March when it crashed in Ethiopia, killing 157 people, including 18 Canadians. Five months before that, 189 people were killed when another 737 Max plummeted into the sea near Indonesia.
A series of international investigations determined that both crashes were caused by software that was designed to stabilize the plane, but instead forced the 737 Max into an irreversible nosedive when fed data from a faulty sensor. Introduced by Boeing in 2016, it is now one of the deadliest commercial airliners in history.
On Wednesday, Transport Canada sent an e-mail to relatives of the 18 Canadians killed in the Ethiopian crash, informing them of the coming announcement. Several of the families had asked the government not to approve the plane unless the deadly software was stripped from the design.
“I know that the news of our completion of the validation process is not something that you wanted to receive,” said Mr. Robinson in the e-mail, which was obtained by The Globe and Mail.
“I can assure you though that our process and review to validate these changes has been comprehensive; that our decisions have been independent and driven by the analysis of our globally recognized certification experts; and, that we are confident in our validation outcome.”
The FAA cleared the revised 737 Max to fly in November, followed by regulators in Europe and Brazil. Brazilian airline Gol returned the plane to service last week, becoming the first carrier to do so. Canada’s two largest carriers Air Canada and WestJet Airlines both fly the aircraft.
However, one of the experts called to testify at Transport committee hearings into the Canadian government’s endorsement of the 737 Max said he is not convinced that the plane has been made entirely safe by the design changes.
Boeing has said the flaws in the plane’s software – known as the manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) – have been fixed. But Gilles Primeau, an expert in flight-control systems, said the stabilization software that caused the crashes can still, under certain conditions, be fed faulty information. He raised this flaw with Transport Canada, Boeing and the FAA, but says his concerns haven’t been addressed.
“I’d love to see proof that Boeing even noticed this condition or that the FAA’s so-called unprecedented scrutiny [of the 737 Max] noticed it either,” Mr. Primeau said. “There’s an easy way to find out: Demand to see immediately Boeing’s or FAA’s evidence that this case was studied, and how they could find a rationale to accept this.”
Under international aviation rules, the FAA scrutinizes Boeing’s aircraft designs, which are then validated by other international regulators such those in Canada and Europe.
Boeing was found to have withheld information from the FAA about the software in the original certification of the 737 Max, so that when Canadian regulators verified the plane, they were unaware that the system could force the plane into a nosedive that pilots could struggle to reverse.
The FAA was also found to have outsourced much of the scrutiny over the original design to Boeing’s own engineers in an effort to streamline the regulatory approval of the plane.
“I have completely lost confidence in them,” Mr. Primeau said of the FAA.
Transport Canada has said it is looking at changes to the way it validates new aircraft as a result of the 737 Max disasters. In addition to extra training for Canadian pilots flying the plane, new cockpit measures will be introduced, which the government plans to detail in the coming weeks.
“We will issue a Canadian Airworthiness Directive that will clearly outline the Canadian validated design changes that must be incorporated,” Mr. Robinson said in the e-mail. “In addition, we will also mandate the training requirements for air crew through an Interim Order.”
The plane will likely return to service in the new year.
“We expect these steps to take place in January, 2021,” Mr. Robinson said in the e-mail.
“In the meantime, I can assure you all that the commercial flight restrictions for the aircraft in Canadian airspace remain in effect and will not be lifted until we are fully satisfied that all its safety concerns have been addressed.”
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Norway policy on Pfizer vaccine unchanged after alarm over deaths – Al Jazeera English
Norway will not change its policy on the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine following deaths among highly frail recipients, but officials have said that health workers should properly assess patients before deciding whether to give them the jab.
As of January 14, 23 reports of deaths suspected to be associated with COVID-19 vaccines had been submitted to the Norwegian health registry.
Of the 13 cases analysed in detail so far, the concerned individuals were elderly, frail and had serious diseases, Camilla Stoltenberg, director of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI), told reporters on Monday.
“It is important to remember that about 45 people die every day in nursing homes in Norway, so it is not a given that this represents any excess mortality or that there is a causal connection,” she said.
Stoltenberg reiterated that the FHI’s guidelines on administering the vaccine remained the same, stating doctors should consider the overall health of their patients before giving them the jab.
“One should have an assessment of each and every one before offering the vaccine,” she said.
But, she added: “It’s not impossible that some of those who have gotten the vaccine are so frail that maybe you should have reconsidered and not given them the vaccine, because they are so sick that they might have become worse from the normal side effects as the body reacts and builds up immunity.”
News of the deaths had raised alarm over the safety of the vaccine.
BioNTech had earlier said that Norwegian health authorities changed their recommendation in relation to vaccination of the terminally ill.
But the company later retracted the statement following clarification from Norway. Pfizer did not have any immediate comment.
Norway’s death toll from the pandemic currently stands at 521 people, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
‘Very rare occurrences’
Norway is currently vaccinating residents of care homes, including those with serious underlying conditions.
An average of 400 people die each week in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the Nordic country.
Common adverse reactions to messenger RNA vaccines – such as the Pfizer-BioNTech shot – include fever, nausea, and diarrhoea.
A number of countries, including Norway’s neighbours Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, have also reported post-vaccination deaths, but no direct links to the vaccine have been established.
More than 48,000 people have been vaccinated in Norway so far.
PM eases restrictions
Norway has had one of the lowest infection rates in Europe during the pandemic, imposing tighter restrictions earlier than many other countries.
The 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants was at 157.95 in the week ending January 10, the fifth-lowest in Europe behind Iceland, Greece, Bulgaria and Finland, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg on Monday announced the easing of some coronavirus restrictions after extra measures put in place for two weeks appeared to have achieved the desired effect in slowing transmission.
But Solberg stressed that infection rates remained too high for comfort.
“Although the measures seem to be working, and the infection rates are somewhat lower, the situation is still uncertain,” she told parliament. “Infection rates are still too high but with common efforts, we can reduce the spread.”
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WASHINGTON — The Latest on Senate confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden’s nominees for his administration (all times local): 11:05 a.m. President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national intelligence director says that the intelligence community under her watch would have a support role in assessing the threat coming from domestic extremists like the ones who stormed the U.S. Capitol this month. Avril Haines said at her Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that the primary responsibility for U.S.-based threats belongs to the FBI and the Department Homeland Security. But she says she expects that intelligence agencies would be involved in those discussions, particularly if there are connections between Americans and foreign-based extremist groups. Haines called the events of Jan. 6 “truly disturbing” and said it was “eerie” coming to the Senate and seeing the National Guard deployed around Washington. ___ HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN’S CABINET PICKS: President-elect Joe Biden’s national security Cabinet may be bare on Day One of his presidency, but an inauguration eve spurt of Senate confirmation hearings suggests that won’t be the case for long. Read more: — Yellen urges Congress to do more to fight pandemic recession ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON: 10:45 a.m. President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national intelligence director says that perhaps no greater priority on the job right now is “building the trust and confidence necessary to protect the American people.” Avril Haines is vowing at her Senate intelligence committee confirmation hearing Tuesday to speak “truth to power” even when that truth is inconvenient or difficult. The comments signalled a course correction to the four years of the Trump administration, when President Donald Trump repeatedly attacked intelligence community assessments that he disagreed with — particularly about Russia. Haines also says the American people deserve a “government worthy of their trust” and that she will work to promote transparency in the intelligence community. 10:40 a.m. The Democratic vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee is telling President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national intelligence director that the intelligence community will have to “recover” from the experience of Donald Trump’s leadership. Sen. Mark Warner says that during the four years of the Trump administration, intelligence community officials willing to speak the truth were “vilified, reassigned, fired or retaliated against.” Warner told Avril Haines at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday that she will be expected to keep politics out of national security decision making. He says he expects to hear a strong statement of support for the professionalism of the intelligence community. ___ 10:30 a.m. One of President Donald Trump’s national intelligence directors is introducing President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for the job at her confirmation hearing. Dan Coats, a former Republican senator who held the post under Trump, is speaking Tuesday at Avril Haines’ confirmation hearing before the Senate intelligence community. His appearance is designed to show that Haines, who served in the Obama administration, has bipartisan support. He says Haines is committed to bringing “nonpoliticized truth to power” and restoring trust in confidence in the intelligence community. He calls Haines an “exceptional choice.” ___ 10 a.m. President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security will address the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol at the start of his Senate confirmation hearing. Alejandro Mayorkas says in prepared remarks released ahead of the Tuesday hearing that the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot was “horrifying” and authorities still have much to learn about what happened that day and what led to the insurrection. Mayorkas says that as secretary of Homeland Security he would do everything he can to ensure that “the tragic loss of life, the assault on law enforcement, the desecration of the building that stands as one of the three pillars of our democracy and the terror felt by you, your colleagues, staff, and everyone present, will not happen again.” If confirmed, the former federal prosecutor and senior Homeland Security official under President Barack Obama would be the first Latino and first immigrant to lead the department. He would lead one of the largest agencies in government to enforce the nation’s immigration laws and run the immigration services agency as well as the components such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the civilian cybersecurity agency. ___ 6:30 a.m. President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be America’s top diplomat says he’s ready to confront challenges posed by China, Iran, North Korea and Russia. Secretary of State-designate Antony Blinken also says he’s committed to rebuilding the State Department after four years of atrophy under the Trump administration. Blinken is set to appear Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In testimony prepared for his appearance, Blinken says he sees a world of rising nationalism and receding democracy. He also says that mounting threats from authoritarian states are reshaping all aspects of human life, particularly in cyberspace. Blinken says American global leadership still matters and without it rivals will either step in to fill the vacuum or there will be chaos. He says neither choice is palatable. Blinken also promises to bring Congress in as a full foreign-policy partner, a subtle jab at President Donald Trump’s administration and its secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who routinely ignored or bypassed lawmakers in policy-making. ___ 6 a.m. President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national intelligence director is planning to tell Senate lawmakers that intelligence and national security issues will not be politicized under her watch. Avril Haines faces a confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate intelligence committee. Haines will also tell lawmakers that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence must not shy away from “speaking truth to power” even if inconvenient or difficult. That’s according to excerpts of her prepared remarks released ahead of the hearing. Haines served in the Obama administration as deputy director of the CIA and deputy national security adviser. If confirmed, Haines would be tasked with restoring stability to an intelligence community that has been repeatedly denigrated by President Donald Trump. She would also be the first woman to hold the position. The Associated Press
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