Boeing aircraft in deadly Indonesia crash a popular new model in Canada and abroad

The aircraft involved in a deadly crash after reporting technical issues in Indonesia Monday — the Boeing 737 MAX 8 — is the latest version of one of the company’s biggest and most popular jets.

And it’s one that Canadian airlines WestJet, Air Canada and Sunwing all use.

In a statement to Global News, WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart confirmed that the airline has nine Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes in its fleet.

Air Canada also confirmed to Global News that it uses 18 of the jets.

Sunwing Airlines also added four of the aircraft to its fleet earlier this year, according to its website. Sunwing did not respond to Global News questions regarding additional inspection or maintenance of the jets by the time of publication.

Both Air Canada and WestJet airlines said they are closely monitoring the investigation into Monday’s Lion Air crash, which left 189 dead.

WestJet said it currently has no plans to carry out its own evaluation of the aircraft.

“There is no information available as to cause of the incident in Indonesia, and no indication from the manufacturer or regulator that any action is required or warranted,” Stewart said.

“These aircraft of WestJet’s are brand new and we have no plans at this time for any action.”

In a similar statement, Air Canada said it has not “received any directives from the manufacturers at this time.”

Porter Airlines does not have any Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in its fleet, a spokesperson said.

Details on the crash

Lion Air’s plane was almost brand new. It was flown for the first time on Aug. 15.

While no direct cause has been determined for the crash, the airline said the plane had been certified as airworthy before Monday’s flight by an engineer who is a specialist in Boeing models.

But the Boeing 737 MAX 8 literally fell out of the sky and into the sea just after takeoff from Jakarta’s airport.

Data from FlightRadar24 shows the first sign of something amiss was around two minutes into the flight when the plane had reached 610 metres.

The plane dropped more than 152 metres, veered to the left and then started climbing again to 1,524 metres. It gained speed in the final moments before data was lost when it was at an altitude of 1,113 metres.

Yusuf Latief, a spokesman for Indonesia’s national search and rescue agency, said there were likely no survivors.

Relatives of passengers of Lion Air, flight JT610, that crashed into the sea cry at Depati Amir Airport in Pangkal Pinang, Belitung island, Indonesia, October 29, 2018.

How popular is the Boeing 737 MAX 8?

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 is the most recent model of Boeing’s famous 737, the U.S. company’s best-selling plane, and is a popular choice among budget airlines around the world.

Several international airlines have MAX 8s in their fleet, including American, Southwest, Jet Airways, AeroMexico, LOT Polish Airlines and FlyDubai.

The website FlightAware listed 75 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in the air on Monday at noon ET, operating in markets around the world. Flight Aware provides real-time online flight tracking for commercial aircraft.

Boeing says its 737 MAX series is the “fastest-selling airplane” in its history, with nearly 4,700 orders from more than 100 customers worldwide, according to its website.

The 737 MAX 8 is part of a series of aircraft that also includes the 7, 9 and 10. All four versions have the same wingspan of 35.9 metres, and the same LEAP-1B engines from CFM International, according to specifications on Boeing’s website. They differ in length and seat size, with the MAX 10 being the longest.

Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft are produced at a facility in Renton, Wash.

In a statement on its website, Boeing offered condolences to those affected by Monday’s crash.

“We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of those on board,” the statement read. “Boeing is providing technical assistance at the request and under the direction of government authorities investigating the accident.”

What should airlines do?

Ross Aimer, a pilot and CEO of Aero Consulting Experts, explained to Global News that this particular Boeing model is new — and therefore has a lot of new technology.

Aimer, who is a former United Airlines pilot, said most airlines would offer “differences training” to pilots using new aircraft. But it’s unclear whether Lion Air did so.

“I’m not sure that Lion Air did an extensive training of their pilots,” Aimer said. “They don’t have a very stellar safety record, they were barred from EU airspace for several years.”

But the aviation expert noted that it’s tough to blame either an aircraft or training — or suggest other airlines take action — until a cause for the crash is determined.

“They should be able to extract the voice and data recorders shortly, which will give us all the indications of what exactly happened,” Aimer said, noting after that proper courses of action can be determined.

Shares of Boeing took a dive after news of the Lion Air crash, a rare dent in what has been a year of soaring growth for the aircraft maker so far. The company’s stock price closed at US $359.27 on Friday, up a whopping 21 per cent since the start of the year, after delivering a gangbusters report with earnings far above Wall Street expectations.

By midday on Monday, however, the stock price was down more than 4 per cent. Lion Air is waiting for 240 Boeing 737 MAXs from Boeing, equivalent to around four per cent of the company’s backlog of narrow-bodied aircraft, according to Robert Stallard, an analyst at Vertical Research Partners.

— With files from Reuters and Global News business reporter Erica Alini

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