Boeing works to win over pilots ahead of the return of the 737 Max
INTERNATIONAL - In a series of meetings around the globe over the next few weeks, Boeing Co. will try to convince a key audience that its 737 Max is safe: pilots who will fly the jetliners.
The sessions started Tuesday in Miami and will conclude in mid-October in Singapore. Pilots are also gathering in Shanghai, Istanbul and at Gatwick Airport outside of London for demonstrations of its revamped software for the Max and new training materials, Boeing spokeman Chaz Bickers said.
The outreach is just one piece of a large and complicated campaign to help prepare for the eventual return to service for the jetliner, which has been grounded for more than half a year after two fatal crashes killed 346 people. Boeing must win the support of sometimes fractious global regulators for its redesigned jet, while also preparing to clear a logjam of hundreds of newly built jets that can’t be delivered because of the flying ban.
The pilot sessions are “part of our ongoing effort to share more details about our plane for supporting the safe return of the 737 Max to commercial service,” Bickers said in an email.
The Chicago-based planemaker has invited Max operators to send their pilots to one of the company’s five training centers globally.
Boeing had held similar sessions in April and May as it wrapped up initial work on the software system linked to the Lion Air and Ethiopian crashes. But the plane’s return was postponed after regulators delved deeper into the jet’s flight-control system, requiring Boeing to make a broader software change.
American Airlines Group Inc. and German tour-operator Tui AG confirmed their pilots are participating in the group sessions, which were organized amid a shortage of flight simulators designed for the 737 Max. Southwest Airlines Co., the largest Max operator, said it also will have pilots in Miami for the sessions. The Air Line Pilots Association, representing aviators at United Airlines Holdings Inc., didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Both management and line pilots for American and Southwest will take part in the Miami sessions, spokesmen for the carriers said.
American expects its own Max simulator to be operating by the end of October. Southwest is installing its first Max simulator, and is awaiting the final software update before continuing certification tests in October, a spokesman said.
When the Max actually starts flying again is still anyone’s guess, although Boeing is pushing to resume commercial flights in the fourth quarter. Boeing rose 1.2% in New York, the biggest gain on the Dow Jones Industrial Index.