It’s been another big weekend for Boeing’s embattled 737 MAX. Boeing has gone on the offensive by recruiting 160 pilots to assist airlines in the rollout of their parked MAX jets, while the Senate has called out the US FAA and Boeing for a ‘cover up’ during the initial certification stages of the aircraft.
Boeing hires pilots to jump start trust exercise
Boeing is reportedly hiring up to 160 pilots to embed at airlines in order to assist carriers in their efforts to return the 737 MAX to commercial service after its 20-month long flight ban.
These “Global Engagement Pilots” will act as instructors and observers in the cockpit, and will each serve on 35-day assignments with the airlines.
The initiative is due to set Boeing back $32 million.
“Duties include: consulting activities and assist in customer support, including flying opportunities,” according to a summary seen by Reuters of job terms from a contracting firm carrying out the recruitment on behalf of Boeing.
Pilots must have 1,000 hours of instructor experience and “no incidents, accidents, losses or violations,” and be licensed on the 737 and other Boeing jetliners, it said.
Safety experts have said Boeing’s decision to recruit pilots directly is rather unusual, and highlights the US planemaker’s desperate desire to jump start the global return to service on its embattled MAX jet.
However, a smooth return to service is seen as vital for Boeing, which faces costs of $20 billion over the grounding.
Boeing has already drawn up plans for a $1 billion initial investment in pilot recruitment, training, and developing a fight deck for the next generation of pilots.
“We continue to work closely with global regulators and customers to safely return the 737-8 and 737-9 to service worldwide,” a Boeing spokeswoman said.
Boeing is hoping its new squad of pilots can help protect the re-launch of its newly redesigned 737 MAX from operational glitches, and work towards rebuilding trust in the brand following the two fatal MAX crashes that killed 346 people, and caused the nearly two-year long grounding of the jet.
With similar intentions, Boeing has also launched 24/7 surveillance of all 737 MAX flights around the world, and released talking points for flight attendants to reassure any passengers who may express concern while onboard.
The 24/7 ‘war room’ has been set up at its Seal Beach, California facility, and will see staff monitoring massive LCD screens in order to complete “rapid issue resolution” should any emergencies arise.
Boeing has also deployed “onsite specialised teams”, sending 154 team members to support five regions around the globe.
Meanwhile, cabin crew are reportedly being provided with a one-page information sheet containing short, simple responses to questions from passengers about what went wrong during the 737 MAX crashes, and how Boeing fixed the problems.
But the inclusion of language about “shared accountability” led to rollout delays and irked some airlines, according to sources.
Boeing has maintained that actions made by air crew were partially to blame for the two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019, in addition to its faulty MCAS software, an opinion that has been criticised by the industry.
Boeing and FAA performed ‘cover up’ during MAX certification: Senate report
The news comes as a Senate report released on Friday found that Boeing officials “inappropriately coached” 737 MAX test pilots during initial certification efforts that preceded the two fatal crashes.
The Senate committee raised questions about whether flight testing on the 737 MAX, and importantly, the use of its controversial safety system known as MCAS, deviated from proper protocol.
The committee ultimately concluded that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing officials were attempting to “cover up importation information” that could have contributed to the crashes.
According to the report, the FAA and Boeing “had established a pre-determined outcome to reaffirm a long-held human factor assumption related to pilot reaction time … It appears, in this instance, FAA and Boeing were attempting to cover up important information that may have contributed to the 737 MAX tragedies.”
The report directly cited a whistleblower, who alleged Boeing officials encouraged test pilots to “remember, get right on that pickle switch” prior to the exercise that resulted in pilot reaction in approximately four seconds, while another pilot in a separate test reacted in approximately 16 seconds.
The account was corroborated during an FAA staff interview, the committee added.
Numerous reports have found Boeing failed to adequately consider how pilots respond to cockpit emergencies in its development of the 737 MAX.
Boeing said Friday it takes “seriously the committee’s findings and will continue to review the report in full.”
The FAA said on Friday it was “carefully reviewing the document, which the committee acknowledges contains a number of unsubstantiated allegations.”
The agency added it is “confident that the safety issues that played a role in the tragic (737 MAX) accidents involving Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 have been addressed through the design changes required and independently approved by the FAA and its partners.”
Following the FAA officially recertifying the aircraft on 18 November 2020, both Boeing and the FAA have said the plane is now among the world’s safest after improvements to cockpit software and pilot training.