Boeing said it would recommend simulator training for pilots of its 737 Max jets after previously stating that such training was unnecessary.
In a statement released on January 7th, the aerospace company said it was basing its decision on its “unstinting commitment to the safe return of service as well as changes to the airplane and test results.” The reversal comes after Boeing said it would temporarily suspend production of the 737 Max — the airplane involved in two fatal crashes that took the lives of 346 people — starting this month. Simulator training requirements for pilots could further delay the jets return to service.
“Safety is Boeing’s top priority,” said interim Boeing CEO Greg Smith in the statement. “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 is temporarily serving as CEO of the company after former chief executive Dennis Muilenburg was reportedly fired by Boeing’s board of directors. Muilenburg will ultimately be replaced by David L. Calhoun who currently serves as board chairman. Calhoun will also become the company’s president and will retain his chairman post.
Boeing recently informed the Federal Aviation Administration of its decision to recommend simulator training, according to The New York Times. The FAA will make the ultimate decision, though it is likely to follow the company’s guidance. The agency has yet to complete its assessment of the 737 Max that’s required to return the jet to service. The company has been making about 40 aircraft per month following the 737 Max’s worldwide grounding in March, and it has around 400 airplanes in storage.
The two deadly crashes, one in late 2018 and the other in early 2019, were related to a piece of anti-stall software known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) as well as production, design, and regulatory shortcuts taken by Boeing. Pilots were previously not made aware of MCAS and were not trained on how to react if it malfunctioned.
It was to Boeing’s benefit to refrain from recommending simulator training to pilots. The company had previously offered discounts on the 737 Max to carriers if their pilots were determined to require simulator training.