American Airlines plans to train pilots on 737 Max in late October

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American Airlines has slated pilots to start computer training on the grounded Boeing 737 Max in late October, even though federal regulators have given no indication for when the plane could be approved to fly.

The Fort Worth-based airline has scheduled distance learning courses to be ready in late October and simulator training for November, December and January, according to a memo viewed by The Dallas Morning News.

“With the planned return to service for our B737 Max aircraft in the near future, we will begin conducting B737 Max Special Training for our B737 pilots,” the memo said. “The training will begin in November 2020, and we expect to have completed training for all B737 pilots by the end of January 2021.”

The Boeing 737 Max has been grounded since March 2019 after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people and introduced major questions about the safety culture at every level of Boeing’s airplane design process.

The training includes a 1 hour and 40 minute “distance learning module,” a simulator training with a one-hour briefing and two hours of simulator time.

“We plan to train approximately 1,700 pilots in November with the balance occurring in December and January,” the memo said.

The Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines pilots, said it’s concerned the carrier is rushing to get the plane ready to fly before the Federal Aviation Administration has approved the new plane to fly or approved training procedures for the jets.

“This seems to be a last-minute rush to push the Max back into service and put pressure on the process before all things have been completely vetted and do not reflect the stakeholder safety culture that is critical to the Max’s safe return to service,” said pilots union spokesman Dennis Tajer.

American Airlines spokeswoman Sarah Jantz said the airline has not made “any definitive plans regarding the Max.”

“We have initiated the pilot training scheduling process, which can be canceled if the Max is not recertified,” Jantz said. “We remain in contact with the FAA and Boeing on the recertification process.”

The process has focused on the anti-stall system on the 737 Max known as MCAS, which created a difficult-to-control stall that was blamed for the two crashes. Boeing has been working on the fix for 18 months.

The FAA is in the midst of the rulemaking and information gathering process and a key report for training of crew members is expected to be released this week, said FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford. Other recommendations are expected this month.

Otherwise, the FAA has not released any updates on the certification process since early August, he said.

However, U.S. and foreign air regulators have been conducting test flights for the 737 Max as it works through the global process of bringing it back into service.

American Airlines owns 24 of the 737 Max jets, the second most of any U.S. carrier behind the 34 owned by Dallas’ Southwest Airlines.

Leaders at American Airlines have said it would take at least one to two months to bring the 737 Max back into service after it was certified and that they planned to reintroduce the plane slowly when it does.


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