MAX Saga Signals Changes In How FAA Seeks Pilot Feedback
FAA’s plan for how pilots will evaluate changes to the Boeing 737 MAX and new training materials signals a shift from focusing primarily on the carriers it regulates to one that accounts for variations in pilot experience around the world.
The agency is finalizing a plan to bring in as many as 30 pilots from a variety of carriers to conduct MAX simulator sessions the coming weeks, multiple sources with knowledge of the plan tell Aviation Week. The sessions are one of the final steps in the process to validate changes to the MAX flight-control computer (FCC) software needed to convince the agency that the aircraft is safe to fly. The MAX has been grounded since mid-March.
Such evaluation groups are common, usually serving on or feeding into work done by Flight Standardization Boards during an aircraft’s certification. Usually, they are dominated by U.S. pilots. The new group will include pilots from around the world with varied experience. One source said that FAA plans to recruit some with multi-crew pilot licenses, which emphasize competency-based outcomes and simulator training, as opposed to flight hours, to qualify a candidate to serve as a first officer.
Boeing’s changes are addressing the MAX-specific design and training issues highlighted by the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air accidents and related evaluations. But data in the reports point to longer-term questions, such as how well the crews were trained to handle an emergency that required a high degree of hand-flying using some procedures that are rarely, if ever, practiced by airline pilots.
By expanding participation in-flight operations evaluation boards, the FAA hopes to get feedback that is more representative of the entire industry and use it to establish a more effective set of training standards for aircraft it certifies. The issue goes beyond where pilots were trained or how many hours they have.
“It’s not about whether pilots are qualified,” one U.S. government official said. “It’s about gaining a better understanding of different environments.”
This is a condensed version of an in-depth article published in the August 23, 2019 issue of Aviation Daily. Read the full story here.