A pilot for a US airline said that he was uncomfortable with the level of training he received before he scheduled to fly the Boeing 737 Max for the first time.
Like a pilot at other US airlines using the 737 Max who has been involved in two deadly crashes in less than five months that Have killed nearly 350 people – this pilot was only required by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to take a video tutorial on the new jet, as he was already certified to fly earlier variants of the 737 aircraft, on which Max is based
After the Indonesia accident, the airlines have been involved in the aftermath of the incident. Using the model they said they were upgrading their training to cover a new flight system that Boeing had installed in the plane, but which pilot was not informed about until after that tragedy. The model was grounded after the last month's Ethiopian Airlines crash. The preliminary report on that crash is due today (April 4), and the aviation community-and lawyers will be looking closely at the findings.
"Just a different airplane"
The pilot Quartz spoke about two decades of experience with his current airline, and additional experience beyond that. He was assigned a two-hour video tutorial, in line with the FAA's recommendation for a pilot certified to fly the earlier version of the 737, to which the 737 Max is related.
"After completing it, over the next couple of days I got to think that, you know, they said it was not a different airplane, it was just the same aircraft with some differences, "he said. "But I went back to my notes, and I went back to the iPad and reviewed some of the information, and I realized it was actually, it was the same airframe, but it had different instrumentation, some of the things were in different places, "
At least two communications sent by the airline noted that the pilot would see some differences between what was shown in the iPad tutorial and the actual Max. He told his superiors he was not comfortable flying the plane and asked simulator training.
"I was going to see the airplane for the first time 45 minutes before departure, and have 45 minutes to adjust to this new aircraft, after which I was going to have 189 people in the back that I was responsible for, "he said. "So I filed a report with the company that I'm not comfortable flying as a pilot in command of this."
His simulator request was denied as the carrier did not have simulators for Max even now, few airlines Have a Max Simulator ready for training. A request to fly with an instructor was also first denied first time. Eventually, after a 45-minute conversation with the head of the airline's 737 training department, he said the airline agreed that he could fly with an instructor on his first Max flight, scheduled for July between two US west coast cities. [19659002"WhenwearrivedinLosAngelestherewasnoinstructorandsoIcalledtheflightdutymanagertoaskwheretheinstructorwasandhesaidhewouldcallback"saidthepilotAfewminuteslaterhischiefpilotcalledhimtosaythathewasoffthetripifhewasunwillingtofly
"I was punished not only from being taken off the trip and having the pay minus from me but by having a 'missed trip' put in my schedule, which is the same as the one not showing up for the trip, "he said. "I've never had a missed trip and I was shocked that even though I was sitting in the seat in the aircraft, when I was taken off the trip, that I was given a missed trip."
Missed trip amounted to about $ 3,000 in lost pay, as well as being a black mark on his record of reliability. He raised the issue with the union, and filed reports internally and with the FAA. As information about his experience percolated to another pilot, several told him that they shared his concerns about training for the Max. "After this happened, it became pretty well known, and since then I've probably had, I'm going to guess 50 pilots speak to me," he said.
The FAA did not respond to a query on whether, Before the Lion Air crash, the US pilot had expressed concern about the regulator about the level of training they received on Max.
"Muscle memory" and the Max changes
The video tutorial assigned to the pilot before the Lion Air crash did not cover a new anti-stall flight system capable of sharply pointing the plane downward, whose role was highlighted in the preliminary investigation of that crash. This system is called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, for short.
"In normal circumstances, everything works fine and we can work it out."
"In normal circumstances, everything works well, we can make it work with a high degree of accuracy, "said the pilot. "But if something goes wrong and we're looking for something-for example, with a fire or engine failure-just those extra few seconds looking for the information could cause a problem."
For this reason, he strongly believes simulator training for the max is vital. "That I think would be the acceptable level of training," he said. "Give me the MCAS scenario just to establish a muscle memory of how to deal with it."
The pilot said his concerns about the 737 Max-which he eventually flew for the first time only in December, less than two months after The Lion Air crash, with an instructor who had also previously not flown the aircraft either deepened after the Etiopian catastrophe, and that he's keenly interested in seeing what the investigators found.
"I assume that every 737 pilot in the world was briefed Extensively after the Lion Air crash, "he said," to deal with the automatic nose-down maneuvers by the flight system. "So I kind of harbor a secret concern that maybe there's something bigger than this and maybe just turning off [switches to override MCAS] is not going to fix the problem. I hope that's not correct, I hope it will, but part of me says that it's bigger than that and it's not going to work. "
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that black-box data shows Ethiopian pilots carried out steps (paywall) recommended by Boeing and the FAA in the wake of the Lion Air crash. But they were unable to get the plane to climb again, and they seem to have reversed some of them. The plane crashed six minutes after takeoff.
The Seattle Times said that the former Boeing engineer Peter Lemme had expressed concern that there might be circumstances in which it is not possible to complete the checklist as prescribed, which involves stabilizing the plane with control wheel, after flipping two switches to cut power to the MCAS.
Separately, a NASA-run database of confidential safety reports from US pilots recorded complaints from at least two pilots who flew the Max who said that they experienced a plane's nose pitching down when they were in autopilot, which they were able to stop by shutting off the autopilot. However, MCAS is not supposed to activate when pilots are in autopilot mode-only when they are in manual flight mode. Boeing said it could not comment on those reports.
What US airlines said
In order to keep the pilot's identity private, Quartz could not comment on the specifics of his particular situation from his airline. However, Quartz contacted major airlines that had been flying the Max in the US-American, Southwest, and United-if they had a pilot who had requested more training than the iPad video tutorial, which was assigned before the aircraft's induction, and if so, how they were accommodated
Southwest did not respond to the request for comment.
American referenced quartz to an earlier commentary on training pilots received for the 737 Max , in which it said:
The Boeing 737-800 pilot was required to receive some additional training on the MAX 8, which included some hour lesson on some differences. Additional training was not required, as the 737-800 and the MAX 8 have the same type certification.
It also referred Quartz to a November statement in which it said:
We value our partnership with Boeing, but were not aware of Some of the functionality of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) is installed on MAX 8. The work with FAA and Boeing is on-going, and we will continue to keep the pilot informed of any updates.
United said: 19659032] Nothing is more important to United Airlines than the safety of our customers and employees. We have been in close contact with investigators as well as Boeing to share data and fully cooperate with regulatory authorities. We have also made clear our pilot are properly trained to fly the MAX safely.
It also shared a report from the union representing United that said:
Since May 2018 we have flown over 23,000 hours and analyzed thousands of safety data points in our 737 MAX 9 operation. Not one of these data points has been attributed to performance or mechanical deficiencies. We will immediately relay any relevant factual information that affects our pilot and will take any action required.