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Fleet Profiles: Air Canada

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Welcome to the next edition of Fleet Profiles where we delve into the current fleets of airlines across the world, having covered in the last edition Virgin Atlantic, a British airline off the European continent, it time to jump across the the American continent and lets go with Air Canada, fitting given July 1st is the Canadian National Holiday. As the airline is going through a huge shake up in its fleet line up for the first time in nearly 15 years, lets dive in and see what the Maple Leaf clad airline has to offer!

 

Airbus A320-family

The Airbus A320 has been the stalwart of the Air Canada short haul/medium haul fleet. The first Air Canada A320 arrived in February 1990. Like with other aircraft types (Boeing 737-200 and 767-300 mainly) Air Canada acquired a handful of A320 aircraft when it bought out Canadian Airlines in the early days of the new millennium. The introduction of the A320-family led to the retirement of the classic generation jets the airline had been utilising since the early 1970s, the fleets of the Douglas DC-9 and Boeing 737-200.

The airline also operates the smaller Airbus A319 and larger Airbus A321. The A319 fleet had two notable planes C-GITR/GITP which were ETOPS certified to fly the St John to London Heathrow service during the 2010’s, until their replacement- the Boeing 737-MAX arrived in 2018. The Airbus A321 is often found flying high demand routes within Canada and to the Southern USA.

As of July 2019, 72 Airbus A320-family aircraft operate for Air Canada. Whilst the A319/A321 are still quite young in age (10-15 years old) and have a fair amount of service remaining, the A320s are getting close to 30 years old in some of the earlier examples. Their replacement ranges from the Airbus A220 (formerly Bombardier C-Series) and Boeing 737-MAX (which the airline has 24 grounded examples). Despite the upcoming fleet changes, Air Canada will most likely fly these aircraft for a while still, gracing the skies around North America and the Caribbean. Some Air Canada A320 family (like the Boeing 767) have been transferred to Air Canada Rouge.

All Airbus A320 have a 2-cabin layout ranging from 120 seats to 190 seats depending on the aircraft. The cabins are sold as Business and Economy.

C-FZUH sports a special heritage livery as of July 2019 wearing the historical “TRANS-CANADA AIRLINES” livery- which was the predecessor of the current Air Canada, it has worn this livery since its delivery in 1997. another three Airbus planes, C-GITU (A321) and C-FDRH/RK (both A320) all wear the black and white Star Alliance livery.

 

Airbus A330

A bit of an oddball for the Air Canada fleet. The airline has a fleet of 10 Airbus A330, with two more on delivery, all the Airbus A330 are based out of Montreal on flights to, predominantly, Europe. The fleet was acquired between October 1999 and June 2001. Given the rest of the Air Canada bases have the Boeing 767, 787 & 777- I personally can’t see a reason to operate this aircraft type, but it has worked for their fleet for 20 years, so they must be a decent asset.

The A330 fleet consists of a 3-class configuration. 27 “Signature” Class, 21 Premium Economy and 244 Economy seats bringing a total of 292 passengers to every one Airbus A330.

C-GHLM sports the Star Alliance colour scheme, the airline was a founding member of that Alliance in 1997.

 

Boeing 767-300

The Boeing 767 has been a stalwart of the Air Canada fleet since the early 1980s. The airline has used the aircraft type from the original -200ER generation and is as of July 2019 operating its final six aircraft of a total of 63 aircraft. Whilst the Boeing 767 will be retired in 2019, 25 air frames have found new life flying for the airlines Low-Cost/Holiday Airline AIR CANADA ROUGE.

On July 23rd 1983, just seven weeks after a fire destroyed another Air Canada aircraft (a DC-9), a brand new Boeing 767-200(ER) carrying registration C-GAUN departed Montreal International Airport for Edmonton International Airport. Whilst the plane was flying at its cruising altitude of 41,000ft over Red Lake, Ontario- the plane ran out of fuel due to a human error related to a system switch from an Imperial Measuring system to the Metric Measuring system. The Boeing 767 had left Montreal with half the fuel it actually needed to get to Edmonton. Captain Bob Pearson and First Officer Maurice Quintal now had to fly this massive brand new jet as a glider over Ontario. Captain Pearson realised he had little chance of reaching any major airports that could handle a stricken Boeing 767 wide body airliner, so he decided to take a chance to fly to a RCAF Airbase at Gimli, however unbeknown to Captain Pearson, Gimli had closed down in the early 1970s, and that day the former runway was being used for a family car show event. The pilots manoeuvred the plane into a slip stream and despite the nose wheel not fully lowering, the plane came to a safe landing on the airstrip.

The plane had glided for 17 minutes and was the first noted time a pilot performed a slip stream in a passenger jet aircraft. The “Gimli Glider” flew with Air Canada until its retirement in 2008, sadly despite efforts to preserve it in a museum in Canada, the plane ended up being scrapped in Mohave in 2011.

The final mainline Air Canada Boeing 767 carry 211 passengers in two classes spread over 24 “Signature Class” seats and the Economy class sporting 187 seats. The Boeing 767 regularly serves high demand Canadian domestic routes and flights to Europe and the United States. The Air Canada Rouge fleet carries 282 passengers over 24 Premium Rouge cabin seats and 258 Economy seats.

 

Boeing 777

The Boeing 777 was a major move for the airline. The Boeing 747 and later Airbus A340 had been at the centre of the airlines long haul fleet for years, the Boeing 767 was the first ETOPS aircraft for the airline, but its range and weight couldn’t match the bigger jumbo jets.

However the introduction of the Boeing 777 in 2007 led to the swift phasing out of the Airbus A340 fleet, which by this time was starting to feel the effects of the rise of ETOPS airliners. The 747 fleet was phased out in 2004 due to downsizing in the aftermath of 9/11.

The airline uses the Boeing 777-200LR and Boeing 777-300(ER). The aircraft fly long haul routes from Toronto and Vancouver to the Far East of Asia (examples include, Tokyo and Hong Kong) and high demand European destinations (including Frankfurt & London). The Boeing 777-200(LR) does one of the airlines furthest destinations, serving Sydney Kingford-Smith Airport in Australia from Vancouver and Toronto.

Over a decade after they arrived, Air Canada has 25 aircraft. The Boeing 777-200(LR) carry 300 passengers on a 3 class configuration and the larger Boeing 777-300(ER) carry either 400 or 450 on a three class configuration depending on the aircraft and what route it does.

 

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

The Boeing 787 (C-GHPQ) was first introduced to Air Canada in May 2014, after the type was affected by the groundings in early 2013. The airline was the first Canadian and third North American airline to use the type. The Boeing 787s have effectively replaced the Boeing 767 due to their superior range and fuel efficiency and are complimenting the Boeing 777s on routes with less demand.

Whilst the Dreamliner can be seen mainly on European flights, the type has been known to do long-haul domestic flights to Vancouver from hubs that include Montreal and Toronto Pearson. The airline has sought to expand their long haul network with the Dreamliner’s addition.

Some new routes that the Dreamliner brought to Air Canada included:

Toronto: Mumbai and Santiago

Vancouver: Taipei, Nagoya, Melbourne and Brisbane

The Boeing 787-8 carries a load of 255 passengers in 3 cabins where as the Boeing 787-9 carries a full passenger load of 298. The airline currently operates 37 aircraft with eight 787-8 and 29 787-9. The Boeing 787 was the last aircraft to arrive in the 2005 “toothpaste” colour scheme, and more later aircraft (mainly the 787-9) have arrived in the new black & white “Bandit” livery.

 

Boeing 737-8MAX

The first aircraft type to be delivered in the 2016 “Bandit” black and white livery and not wear the “toothpate” mid-2000s livery since its introduction, the Boeing 737-8MAX was a surprise move when the order was announced. Given the Airbus A320-ceo fleet, Air Canada looked likely to follow most other major A320 operators and buy in the Airbus A320-neo family. But they decided to switch- returning to the 737 after 13 years after they ended their 28 year run with the Boeing 737-200, despite having not used the 737’s subsequent “Classic” or “Next Gen” series.

The Boeing 737-MAX was (prior to the 2019 groundings) in service across most of the airlines North American network, even flying as far south as the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. The routes to London Heathrow from Halifax and St John from mid 2018, have been operated by the Boeing 737-MAX, replacing the previous Airbus A319 on the route.

The Boeing 737-MAX carry a passenger load of 169, spread over 16 Business Class and 153 Economy Class seats.

Most of the Air Canada 737-MAX fleet is stored at either Windsor International Airport (YQG) and Trois-Rivières Airport (YRQ) with 13 airframes at both airports, small numbers can be found at Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, Halifax and Montreal. A couple of air frames that Boeing have finished constructing sit parked at Renton, Seattle.

 

And that concludes the second edition of Fleet Profiles. Keep an eye out for the next edition, it will be coming soon!

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