MIAMI – Reuters has reported that Boeing will hire up to 160 Pilots to embed with airlines to ensure a smooth comeback for its 737 MAX aircraft. The news organization cites recruiting documents seen by a reporter as well as accounts by people familiar with the move.
The new “Global Engagement Pilots” will act as instructors or cockpit observers on 35-day assignments at an equivalent annual salary that could reach US$200,000, for a total potential cost of US$32 million, one of the people said.
The unusual hiring spree is part of a Boeing campaign to protect the relaunch of its redesigned 737 MAX from operational glitches and rebuild trust following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed a total of 346 people.
Boeing’s strategy also includes 24/7 surveillance of 737 MAX flights globally and talking points for flight attendants to reassure passengers who express concern.
“Duties include consulting activities and assistance in customer support, including flying opportunities,” according to a summary seen by Reuters of job terms from a contracting firm carrying out the recruitment on behalf of Boeing.
Pilots must have 1,000 hours of instructor experience and “no incidents, accidents, losses or violations,” and be licensed on the 737 and other Boeing jetliners, it said.
“We continue to work closely with global regulators and customers to safely return the 737-8 and 737-9 to service worldwide,” a Boeing spokeswoman said.
Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have said the plane is among the world’s safest after improvements to cockpit software and pilot training.
But a smooth return to service is vital for Boeing, which faces costs of US$20bn over the grounding. Boeing has already drawn up plans for a $1 billion initial investment in pilot recruitment, training, and developing a fight deck for the next generation of pilots.
But safety experts said its decision to recruit pilots directly is unusual and signals Boeing’s wish to jumpstart the return to service and normalize the 737 MAX as soon as possible.
CCL Aviation, based in Isle of Man, UK, is hiring the pilots on behalf of Boeing, according to the sources and document. The company calls itself the world’s largest provider of flight training personnel and instructor pilots.
CCL Aviation could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters.
More than Just Pilots
Extra Pilots are just one way Boeing is keeping close tabs on the Boeing 737 MAX’s rollout.
Boeing has also set up a 24/7 war room at its Seal Beach, California facility where staff using massive LCD screens will handle “real-time fleet monitoring” for “rapid issue resolution” if emergencies arise, sources briefed on the plan told Reuters.
Boeing has also deployed “onsite specialized teams” with 154 team members supporting five global regions. It has held discussions with dozens of airlines to produce documents the carriers will use to discuss the Boeing 737 MAX safety with passengers, according to a person with knowledge of the effort.
That includes a one-page primer offering flight attendants short, simple responses to questions from passengers about what went wrong during the Boeing 737 MAX crashes and how Boeing fixed the problems, the person and a second industry source said.
But the inclusion of language about “shared accountability” led to delays and irked some airlines, the second person said.
Indonesian investigators have said Boeing failed to grasp risks in the design of cockpit software on the 737 MAX, sowing the seeds for a 2018 crash that also involved errors by airline workers and crew. US regulators cleared the MAX last month.
Featured image: RENTON, WA – JANUARY 29: A Boeing 737 MAX 8 airliner lifts off for its first flight on January 29, 2016, in Renton, Washington. The 737 MAX is the newest of Boeing’s most popular airliner featuring more fuel-efficient engines and redesigned wings. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)