Boeing Recommends Sim Training Requirement for Max

 - January 7, 2020, 2:57 PM
Stored 737 Max jets sit idle at Boeing Field in Seattle. (Photo: Barry Ambrose)

Boeing will recommend to the FAA that 737 Max pilots receive simulator training along with computer-based training before the model returns to service, the company said Tuesday. The recommendation stems from changes to the airplane and test results and the company’s “unstinting commitment to the safe return of service,” it added. The concession comes after Boeing and the FAA for months resisted a simulator requirement as part of the revamped flight training regimen for the grounded jet.

“Safety is Boeing’s top priority," said interim Boeing CEO Greg Smith. "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.”

On Sunday The Wall Street Journal reported that the FAA has begun reconsidering mandatory simulator training only a month after rejecting the idea as unnecessary. The change in opinion arose as Boeing and regulators proposed rewriting some emergency checklists for pilots and creating some new ones, according to unnamed officials quoted by the newspaper.

Meanwhile, the FAA expects Boeing to update certain cockpit alert lights to notify crews of potential problems with the airplane’s maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS). Investigators have implicated problems with the system as the source of the loss of control experienced by the pilots of the twin crashes of the Max, leading to 346 deaths and the global grounding of the model in March.

Following the first crash, involving a Lion Air Max on October 29, 2018, the FAA issued an emergency airworthiness directive giving pilots of Boeing 737 Max 8s and Max 9s procedures to follow in the event of runaway horizontal trim caused by faulty angle-of-attack inputs to the airplane’s flight control system. The AD came a day after Boeing issued an operations manual bulletin in response to investigators’ findings that the airplane experienced erroneous input from one of the sensors. While the directive required a revision to the chapters in the airplane flight manual dedicated to certificate limitations and operating procedures for addressing runaway stabilizer trim, it did not mention the MCAS by name, and Boeing subsequently argued against the need for simulator training due to the commonality it claimed existed between the MCAS software in the Max and the 737 NG's flight controls.