American Airlines pilots will soon receive Boeing 737 MAX flight training in a simulator, a report in The Wall Street Journal says.
Previously, pilots at American and at other US airlines did not train for the MAX in a simulator. The change at American Airlines represents a significant shift because the carrier repeatedly said its pilots did not need additional simulator training to qualify for the newest version of the 737 if they were already qualified for the earlier 737-800 variant. Pilots’ training on the aircraft has been under increased scrutiny after the MAX’s safety was called into question by two similar crashes thought to be caused by a software system on the aircraft.
When the plane model was first released, American gave its pilots qualified to fly Boeing 737-800s a supplemental iPad-based training program that lasted about an hour, Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the American Airlines pilot union, told Quartz in March. Tajer said that after the first MAX crash on Lion Air, American’s MAX pilots received more training with an instructor and that the pilots had “requested, if not demanded, simulators.”
The Federal Aviation Administration does not mandate that US pilots train for the potential software problems in simulators. It has not changed that stance, the Journal says. Southwest and United, the other two US airlines that have MAX planes in their fleets, reportedly are not considering simulator training for their MAX pilots. TPG‘s requests for comment to both Southwest and United went unreturned.
Unnamed officials told the Journal that American’s MAX pilots will go through the simulator training as soon as late summer. The simulator will include activations of the system, dubbed MCAS, that will mimic what is currently known to have occurred on the two ill-fated flights that collectively killed 346 people.
“The enhanced training also will deal with similar emergency situations in which pilots need to intercede to manually correct movement of flight-control surfaces on the jet’s tail,” the Journal says. MCAS automatically pushes the aircraft nose downward if it senses a stall is possible, forcing pilots to intervene manually if they want to disconnect it. The system likely caused the roller coaster of altitude changes that ended in deadly nosedives on both Lion Air flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines flight 302.
TPG reached out to American for more details on the training but did not receive a response by publication.
American Airlines has taken its 737 MAX planes off its schedule into August, and the planes remain grounded worldwide.
Featured photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.