MIAMI – The American aircraft manufacturing giant, Boeing, has now changed its mind and recommends for operators of the 737 MAX to have its pilots undergo complete simulator training before they return to the cockpit of the aircraft once it is allowed to fly again.
This news comes to light following Boeing’s recent announcement of its previous President and, CEO Dennis A. Muilenburg stepping down, after four and a half years in the role.
Boeing has since appointed Greg Smith as its interim CEO while Muilenburg’s replacement, David L. Calhoun, exits his non-Boeing duties. Calhoun is expected to become the new CEO on January 13th 2020.
Boeing has stated that there are only 34 737 MAX simulators worldwide and US airlines only have a handful available.
The US aerospace governing agency, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has said that it is reviewing Boeing’s recommendation alongside its lengthy on-going recertification of the 737 MAX family aircraft.
As part of the recertification, the FAA will rely on data from upcoming tests of the 737 MAX from US and foreign airline pilots.
“The FAA is following a thorough process, not a set timeline, to ensure that any design modifications to the 737 MAX are integrated with appropriate training and procedures,” said FAA spokesman, Lynn Lunsford.
Boeing’s interim CEO, Greg Smith, has stated with this announcement, “safety is Boeing’s top priority.”
“Public, customer and stakeholder confidence in the 737 MAX is critically important to us and with that focus Boeing has decided to recommend MAX simulator training combined with computer-based training for all pilots prior to returning the MAX safely to service,” Smith said.
The 737 MAX has been grounded since March 2019 following two deadly crashes of flights Lion Air 610 that plummeted into the Java Sea just 12 minutes are departure from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia on October 29th 2018, and Ethiopian 302 that crashed near Bishoftu just a mere six minutes after departure from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on March 10th 2019.
In just these two crashes, the 737 MAX has claimed a devastating 346 lives in less than six months.
Both of these crashes have very similar traits with erroneous angle-of-attack (AoA) data and an automatic nose-down trim, which was triggered by the aircrafts MCAS, also known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System.
The MCAS system was implemented into the aircrafts software to attempt to mimic pitching behaviour similar to the Boeing 737 Next Generation (NG). If the MCAS detects a high AoA when the aircrafts flaps are up, it will automatically adjust the horizontal stabilizer trim to add a positive force feedback to the pilot through the control column.
With Boeing’s new pilot training recommendation, the return into service of the 737 MAX might be pushed along further, as the limited availability of simulators will create yet another challenge for the ill-fated plane to return to the skies in a short timeframe.