Flight Simulator Maker Expects MAX Recurrent-Training Mandate
WASHINGTON—FAA and Boeing are still developing new minimum training standards for the grounded Boeing 737 MAX, but simulator maker TRU Simulation is not anticipating mandatory simulator sessions before pilots are cleared to return to line flying, Textron President and CEO Scott Donnelly said.
“It looks at this point to us like it’s probably going to be a requirement that allows them to get back in flying [after] a transition course, and then would mandate actual MAX sim training later on,” Donnelly said on Textron’s second-quarter earnings call July 17. Textron owns TRU.
Formed in 2014 when Textron purchased simulator manufacturers Mechtronix and OPNICUS, TRU has provided 737 MAX simulators to Boeing, including the first-ever MAX full-flight simulator, at Boeing’s Miami training center. It also counts several operators as customers, including Panama-based Copa Airlines, Icelandair, Oman Air, and China’s Shandong Airlines.
Donnelly said interest in MAX simulators has been high as airlines prepare for what is expected to be mandatory sessions for MAX pilots at some point, such as during annual recurrent sessions.
“We’ve certainly had quite a number of inquiries from customers who are interested in going ahead and getting MAX sims on order,” Donnelly said. We started to do some long-lead ordering already to support those deliveries next year. We’re still working ... with Boeing to understand their strategy on a go-forward basis as well. We really have to kind of wait and see where the FAA and the EASA end up in terms of what their training mandates are.”
Current training standards for pilots transitioning from the 737 Next Generation to the MAX do not include mandatory MAX simulator sessions. As a result, many MAX operators do not have MAX simulators.
FAA is evaluating public comments on its proposed new training standards. FAA’s draft standards, based on input from pilots who evaluated Boeing’s proposed changes in March, did not include mandatory simulator sessions as a return-to-flight condition. FAA has said its final standards will incorporate public comments and could change based on Boeing’s proposed final training package, which has not been submitted to the agency.
MAX training is being updated as part of changes stemming from two fatal accidents of the type within five months. Following the second accident, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March, regulators grounded the 380-aircraft worldwide fleet.
Regulators do not have a timeline for approving the changes and removing their MAX operations bans. Most airlines have removed the aircraft from schedules through at least October. Southwest Airlines, which operated the most MAXs at 34, announced July 18 it would keep the MAX off its schedule until at least Nov. 3.