Boeing acknowledged design flaws in the simulator software used to train some Boeing 737 Max pilots. As AFP noted, the statement marked the first time the embattled plane maker clearly states something was wrong.
The New York Times reported Saturday that Boeing had “recently discovered that the simulators could not accurately replicate the difficult conditions created by a malfunctioning anti-stall system, which played a role in both the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March and the Lion Air disaster in October.” The simulators, the paper said, had not accurately mimicked how much force pilots needed to employ to regain control of a fast-moving jet once the system activated.
The pilots of the two doomed flights wrestled to keep their planes airborne as the system — for which Boeing recently issued a software update — repeatedly pushed the aircraft’s nose toward the ground.
It’s unclear whether the pilots in the accidents had been trained using the 737 Max flight simulator. An earlier Times report, citing sources close to the airline, suggested the captain of the Ethiopian Airlines flight may not have trained on the simulator.
Prior to the accidents, Boeing had told airlines that pilots flying the 737 Max would not need to undergo training in the simulator. The company has since stressed that the Federal Aviation Administration had agreed with this view.
The FAA is now working with Boeing to determine what sort of training will be required once the 737 Max, which has been grounded since the Ethiopian Airlines crash, takes to the skies again. The plane is expected to be back in service this fall.
In its Saturday statement, Boeing said it “has made corrections to the 737 Max simulator software and has provided additional information to device operators to ensure that the simulator experience is representative across different flight conditions.”
“Boeing is working closely with the device manufacturers and regulators on these changes and improvements, and to ensure that customer training is not disrupted,” the company added.
Responding to the news of Boeing’s simulator update, Oliver McGee, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary for transportation, said it’s critical that pilots have access to accurate training systems.
“These simulators are very important to the airline operators,” he told Al Jazeera.