By Kim Mackrael and Andy Pasztor
A rift between the U.S. and Canada is growing over how to ensure the safety of Boeing Co.'s grounded 737 MAX planes, as Ottawa's focus on additional pilot training could lead to a delay in getting the jet back in the air.
Canada's transport minister has signaled that his government could require additional simulator training for pilots of the 737 MAX. That possibility threatens to widen the gap between plans being developed by U.S. authorities to put the planes into service and those of other countries, according to industry officials and others participating in or tracking the process.
"Simulators are the very best way from a training point of view to go over exactly what could happen in a real way and to react properly to it, " Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Wednesday. "It's not going to be a question of pulling out an iPad and spending an hour on it."
Separately, Europe's biggest low-cost airline, Ryanair Holdings PLC, is considering adjustments to 737 pilot-training plans, according to people familiar with the carrier's thinking, joining American Airlines Group Inc. in that approach
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has tentatively decided against mandating additional simulator instruction as part of a package that is anticipated within weeks and includes a software fix for a flight-control system implicated in two fatal 737 MAX crashes in less than five months. Industry officials said that decision could change based on input from foreign regulators, as well as responses from domestic pilot unions and other groups during a public comment period ending April 30.
Aviation regulators in Canada, Europe, China and Brazil previously indicated they would conduct their own safety reviews of the software fix to the automated flight-control system -- known as MCAS -- instead of accepting the FAA's analysis and decision to require only interactive and self-instructional training on laptops or other electronic devices.
However, Mr. Garneau's remarks are the first explicit break with the U.S. by a foreign regulator and could mean months of additional delays in other countries while extra simulator time is reserved and new training scenarios are developed.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Garneau said no formal decision has been made about requiring simulator training. She said Mr. Garneau would wait to see what Boeing says and speak with experts before making a final decision.
An FAA spokesman didn't have any comment. Previously, agency officials have said they welcome recommendations from foreign regulators but stressed that the U.S. will act independently based on its review of data and safety considerations.
A Boeing spokesman said the plane maker is working with global regulators and airlines "as they determine training requirements in their home markets."
The global MAX grounding is rippling through airlines' schedules and passengers' travel plans. In the U.S., United Continental Holdings Inc. has taken the jets out of schedules into early July, while Southwest Airlines Co. and American Airlines have removed the aircraft from their flight plans into August.
European regulators previously signaled it could take months for them to assess the FAA's software fix and training requirements, according to industry and government officials on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
The situation marks a sharp departure from tradition -- stretching back many decades -- when major safety decisions from the FAA affecting American-built aircraft tended to be routinely embraced by foreign counterparts. Trust and cooperation have frayed following the 737 MAX groundings, which have roiled the global aerospace industry.
The FAA has set up a high-level international advisory panel, which includes Canadian representatives, to analyze the software fix and related training issues. FAA officials hope such strategies will help shore up international support among regulators and passengers. Brazilian and European regulators previously raised questions about certain MAX flight-control features during the initial FAA certification of the plane.
Canada has required additional training for domestic airlines in the past. After a Lion Air jet crashed off the coast of Indonesia last year, pilots with Canadian airlines that operate the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 9 aircraft received training that Mr. Garneau has said went beyond what was mandated in the U.S.
Ryanair, meanwhile, took the decision to require extra simulator training as a safety measure even though it isn't required, one of the people said.
The Irish carrier is one of the world's biggest MAX customers and the largest in Europe, with 135 ordered and options for 75 more. It was poised to receive its first 737 MAX planes this spring before the jet was grounded. Ryanair already has taken delivery of its first MAX simulator with at least one more pending, another person said.
American Airlines is devising added simulator drills for its 737 pilots to better handle scenarios similar to those that resulted from the misfiring of the suspect flight-control feature. Ground simulators specifically designed to mimic the 737 MAX won't become widely available until autumn or later.
Chicago-based Boeing has been devising a software fix for the jet's flight-control system that is expected to rely on two sensors that measure the angle of the plane's nose -- instead of one currently -- and be less aggressive and more easily controllable by pilots.
The FAA originally approved the MAX by requiring minimal additional training for pilots who were transitioning from flying earlier 737 models. In developing the new model, Boeing aimed to keep additional training requirements at a minimum so pilots and airlines could avoid expensive simulator time.
United said it had no plans to add simulator training unless federal authorities required it. Chief Operating Officer Greg Hart said Wednesday during an earnings conference call that even without specific training on the MAX's stall-prevention system, United pilots already receive training on the type of situation pilots faced on both the Lion Air flight and the Ethiopian Airlines flight which crashed last month.
--Robert Wall, Donato Paolo Mancini, Alison Sider and Andrew Tangel contributed to this article.
Write to Kim Mackrael at firstname.lastname@example.org and Andy Pasztor at email@example.com