Pilots are concerned about whether new training methods proposed by Boeing for pilots of its 737 MAX airplanes are adequate to “ensure that pilots across the globe flying the MAX fleet can do so in absolute, complete safety,” the head of an airline pilots union told a U.S. congressional hearing.
Daniel Carey, a 35-year captain with American Airlines and president of the 15,000-member Allied Pilots Association, told the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Wednesday that before two fatal crashes, there was an “absence of robust pilot training” on how to respond in case of a failure of the MAX’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).
MCAS failures factored in the fatal crashes of two 737 MAX airplanes, according to preliminary investigations. The first accident involved Lion Air Flight 610, which crashed into the Java Sea after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia, on Oct. 29, 2018, killing all 189 passengers and crew; the second accident involved Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which crashed after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 10, killing all 157 passengers and crew. In both cases, the accident airplane was a 737 MAX 8. Both accidents are still under investigation.
The entire MAX fleet has been grounded worldwide since soon after the second crash.
Carey told the subcommittee that he believes Boeing engineers have made “significant positive changes” in MAX software to help avert similar MCAS failures in the future.
“However, at [the Allied Pilots Association] we remain concerned about whether the new training protocol, materials and method of instruction suggested by Boeing are adequate to ensure that pilots across the globe flying the MAX fleet can do so in absolute complete safety.”
Chesley Sullenberger, the (since retired) US Airways captain who landed his Airbus A320 in the Hudson River after a Jan. 15, 2009, bird strike caused a loss of all engine power, reiterated Carey’s call for improved training, including simulator training, on how to handle MCAS failures.
“We should all want pilots to experience these challenging situations for the first time in a simulator, not in flight with passengers and crew on board,” Sullenberger told the subcommittee.
J. Randolph Babbitt, former administrator of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, added that today’s pilots need training that is constantly being improved.
“We have the technology to expand training with the use of [virtual] reality and high-fidelity simulation so that no pilot should ever be surprised by [an] event that takes place in an aircraft in which they are certified,” Babbitt said.