Many pilots in the United States have not been fully informed about how to deal with the new features of the Boeing 737 MAX, including its anti-stall system, and learned about the jet on an iPad, the New York Times reports.
The pilot unions of Southwest Airlines and American Airlines are said to have repeatedly requested Boeing provide them with simulators for the MAX model, but the aircraft manufacturer and the US Federal Aviation Administration decided that pilots do not require additional simulator training because they had Boeing experience.
It appears that software that would simulate flying a Boeing 737 MAX jet was rolled out shortly before the plane was completed.
"They were building the airplane and still designing it," Bowen said. "The data to build a simulator didn't become available until about when the plane was ready to fly," said Greg Bowen of the Southwest pilots association.
According to the NYT, a group of pilots who studied the new model without actually flying it compiled a 13-page guide on differences between the 737 MAX and its predecessor, but it did not mention the new anti-stall software — the one that is in the focus of the ongoing investigations into recent crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia.
The training also included a two-hour iPad course from Boeing.
After the Lion Air crash in late October, Boeing officials promised to fix software within several weeks, but doubled down on their claims that pilots did not need additional training.
As things stand now, the Boeing MAX jets, which first entered service in May 2017, are grounded in most of the world pending inquiry into last week's Ethiopian Airlines crash, which killed all 157 people on board.
The black boxes are being analysed in France, but the FAA has already confirmed that there are similarities with the Indonesia Lion Air crash. In both accidents, the planes went down shortly after take-off, and experts suspect that these tragedies could be caused by false readings from sensors, which led the automatic systems to force the nose down.