CHICAGO (Reuters) – American Airlines Group Inc. pilots are expected to test a test of Boeing Co's 737 MAX software on the US manufacturer's simulators this weekend, Pilots Association officials told Reuters on Thursday, An important step in restoring pilot confidence in the plane after two deadly crashes.
FILE PHOTO: An aerial view of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft parked at the Boeing factory in Renton, Washington on March 21, 2019. REUTERS / Lindsey Wasson
Boeing has been working on a software upgrade for an anti-stall system and pilot shows on his fastest-selling jetliner after the deadly Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October. Similarities between the trajectory of the Lion Air incident and a deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10 have raised new questions about the system, and pilots want to be sure that the update is solid. The two crashes killed everyone aboard the two aircraft, a total of 346 people.
American is the second largest US operator of the MAX after Southwest Airlines. United Airlines is the third US airline to operate the MAX.
"This aircraft can be a safe aircraft and a lot of work has been done to get a repair done, but I'll feel better if we can test it," said Mike Michaelis, chairman of the Safety Committee of the Allied Pilots Association or APA, which represents American airline pilots.
Michaelis said an APA pilot and an American management team pilot would test the software correction in Renton, Washington, where Boeing builds the MAX and has two simulators.
Boeing declined to comment.
The MAX jets were deployed worldwide after the crash in Ethiopia. In order for the plane to fly back to the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration must approve the planned software fix and new training the pilots must complete.
Boeing also plans to provide a default security feature that has previously been alerted to issues that may have played a role in the two crashes.
Regarding training, Boeing has proposed new computer-aided software update training, followed by a mandatory test.
Jon Weaks, chairman of the Southwest Airline Pilots union, told members Wednesday that the FAA-mandated training should be improved.
MAX simulator training is not required, in part because there are not many simulators available.
Southwest and American, who operate 34 and 24 MAX jets, have announced they will receive MAX simulators this year.
Canada's CAE Inc., the main maker of simulators, said it had shipped nine of the simulators that are now in high demand by airlines, but construction takes about a year. CAE expects to deliver another 20 in 2019.
"For now, we want our security experts in these unicorn simulators to show us what the software fix will do," said Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the American Airlines Pilot Union and a 737 pilot. "When it comes to safe topics, it has to be a full menu, nothing a la carte."
Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; additional coverage by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editor: Leslie Adler