Boeing 737 Max pilots didn't have flight simulators, and trained on iPads instead

Posted:
in iPad edited March 18
The nature of how pilots are trained has received scrutiny following two crashes of the Boeing 737 Max in a five month period, with a report revealing pilots were given two hours of tuition on an iPad about the aircraft, rather than using the more conventional flight simulators.

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 (source: WIkiCommons)
A Boeing 737 MAX 8 (source: WIkiCommons)


The relatively new aircraft, the Boeing 737 Max 8, has suffered issues early in its lifecycle due to its problems, which has so far led to two crashes in a matter of months. The issues have led to many airlines operating the aircraft to have suspended services as a safety concern, while governments are responding by banning the jet from being used for flights.

The safety issues has prompted many to investigate how the crashes may have occurred and how Boeing could fix the problems that have plagued the relatively popular craft. So far, Boeing has 4,600 pending orders for the 737 Max, which could end up being cancelled if the problems aren't resolved, potentially costing the company billions.

In a New York Times report, it is claimed pilots are not necessarily being given adequate training, with concerns pilots are not able to handle new software used on the craft. Investigations into the crashes of Ethiopia Airlines and Lion Air flights suggest software training may well be a problem, including tuition for an automated system to avoid stalling.

On the introduction of new models of planes, pilots are usually given training on simulation cockpits that can safely teach how to use new functions of the flight instruments and software while on the ground. It was determined that, at least in the case of the Max, pilots with prior 737 experience learned about the new plane using an iPad for two hours, as well as a 13-page handbook of differences between the Max and earlier models.

It is claimed Boeing had not managed to get a simulator ready during a time it was trying to get the plane completed, and didn't have all the data available.

"They were building the airplane and still designing it," advised Southwest Pilots Association training and standards chair Greg Bowen. "The data to build a simulator didn't become available until about when the plane was ready to fly."

Crucially the training did not cover any of the new software that would be used on the 737 Max. Boeing is also said to have also failed to mention to American Airlines pilots about the new software, under the guise of not wanting to "inundate" them with information.

"When you find out there are systems on it that are wildly different that affect the performance of the aircraft, having a simulator is part of a safety culture," according to American Airlines pilot union spokesman Dennis Tajer. "It can be the difference between a safe, recoverable flight and one that makes the newspapers."

Following complaints, Boeing advised American Airlines and Southwest pilots there would be a software fix provided within weeks, though without the need for further training. On hearing this, union pilots believed they were able to fly the plane safely under current training conditions, without the need for a simulator.

The FAA has also been questioned by US lawmakers over why more substantial training was not required by the regulator. Rep. Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House transportation committee told the FAA "this is essentially a different airplane, how is it that it was certified without prior pilot retraining?"

Boeing is said to be abstaining from introducing changes to its training in the wake of the criticism, according to a person familiar with the matter. Regulators like the FAA and the EU Aviation Safety Agency are also steering clear of proposing more simulator-based training, with computer-based versions like the iPad thought to be the "best way" to inform pilots on the changes.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 54
    Apart from the mention of iPads, I'm unclear why this has appeared here, but I'm utterly astonished if this is the case (it seems to exist as news currently only also on flightaware and a few other non-mainstream news sites).

    It seems the more we learn about this fiasco the more it would appear that there should be prosecutions brought against people who made these decisions at Boeing, quite possibly charges of manslaughter. I'm currently booked on a return flight on a 737-8 in July, and I really hope by that point the decision's been made that they all need to be scrapped and start again.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 2 of 54
    Holy molly. A crash coarse on iPad. And simulator arrives late. There must be some serious shortage of pilot to pull this desperate move.
    viclauyycracerhomie3
  • Reply 3 of 54
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,958member
    Don't believe what you read. Pilots are trained in many ways including flight simulators,cockpit practical flying,etc. Than, they fly for thousands of hours call on job perfecting skills.
  • Reply 4 of 54
    wood1208 said:
    Don't believe what you read. Pilots are trained in many ways including flight simulators,cockpit practical flying,etc. Than, they fly for thousands of hours call on job perfecting skills.
    I don't think the suggestion is that just anyone off the street was put in the 737-8 cockpit after a few hours on an iPad, that's obviously ridiculous.

    AppleInsider said:
    It was determined that, at least in the case of the Max, pilots with prior 737 experience [my emphasis] learned about the new plane using an iPad for two hours, as well as a 13-page handbook of differences between the Max and earlier models.
    That's just about plausible, but still criminal - quite possibly literally.
    StrangeDaysdysamoria
  • Reply 5 of 54
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,705member
    I find this story hard to believe. 
  • Reply 6 of 54
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,564member
    wood1208 said:
    Don't believe what you read. Pilots are trained in many ways including flight simulators,cockpit practical flying,etc. Than, they fly for thousands of hours call on job perfecting skills.
    Yes, all pilots are trained, but most have not idea why a plane flies (lack the engineering and technical skills). If you do not think this is important, just think about the two crashes.

    Most likely we will hear there was some sort of bad data feeding (angle of attack sensor) the automatic flight controls which cause the plane to nose dive into the ground. However, it is easily corrected by turning off the automatic flight controls and fly the plane by the seat of your pants. The problem is no airline wants the pilots not following the book or flying by the seat of their pants. If you watch Sully the movie and listen to what they did in the hearing, they focused on Sully not flying by the book and doing his own analysis and what was best and turned out to be the best course of action. They do not want pilots not following their official training.

    If you are flying outside US airlines, you may want to think twice about getting on the plane especially now with them becoming even more complex to fly with all the automatic controls. Pilots are very disconnect from the actually flying the just monitoring the systems. US pilots are still better than any pilots around the world they tend to have way more flight time on multiply platforms or know one platform really well. Because of these automatic flight systems it allows Airlines to use lower skilled Pilots since the computers are doing most all of the heavy work.
    edited March 18 StrangeDaysravnorodom
  • Reply 7 of 54
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,581member
    wood1208 said:
    Don't believe what you read. Pilots are trained in many ways including flight simulators,cockpit practical flying,etc. Than, they fly for thousands of hours call on job perfecting skills.
    What does that have to do with anything? These are commercially licensed pilots, saying they did not receiving plane-specific simulator time. Do you have any facts to counter the claim? Yeah no. 
    magman1979dysamoria
  • Reply 8 of 54
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 616member
    Apart from the mention of iPads, I'm unclear why this has appeared here, but I'm utterly astonished if this is the case (it seems to exist as news currently only also on flightaware and a few other non-mainstream news sites).

    It seems the more we learn about this fiasco the more it would appear that there should be prosecutions brought against people who made these decisions at Boeing, quite possibly charges of manslaughter. I'm currently booked on a return flight on a 737-8 in July, and I really hope by that point the decision's been made that they all need to be scrapped and start again.
    It's the same airframe as before. Scrapping them would be stupid. But there does seem to be a problem with the systems they introduced with this model. Once that's sorted out, as it should have been in testing before certification, the plane will be fine. The question is how long will that take. The other question is, assuming this story to be true, is Boeing going to be open to civil and/or criminal actions. While the latter are possible, the former are nearly a certainty, if suits haven't already been filed.
    JFC_PA
  • Reply 9 of 54
    There are times when training allows for self-schooling (paper/iPad) and times where ground school and/or sim is necessary.  Cost drives decisions and cost very much drove this decision.  Boeing was pressured by SWA to certify the MAX so that sim would be unecessary thereby eliminating those costs and keeping sim time available for other training. Sim time, btw, is a very in-demand resource. 

    With pressure from the airlines, Boeing pulled strings at the FAA to certify the MAX so that pilots could do self-schooling and qualify on the differences of the MAX. That schooling was highly deficient in what it covered. 

    Its one thing moving a person from a Honda CRX to an Accord - very easy and mostly intuitive. Try moving a person from a CRX to a Tesla with only a few minutes of explanation and you get a better idea of what Boeing did. 
    ravnorodomdysamoria
  • Reply 10 of 54
    DAalseth said:
    Apart from the mention of iPads, I'm unclear why this has appeared here, but I'm utterly astonished if this is the case (it seems to exist as news currently only also on flightaware and a few other non-mainstream news sites).

    It seems the more we learn about this fiasco the more it would appear that there should be prosecutions brought against people who made these decisions at Boeing, quite possibly charges of manslaughter. I'm currently booked on a return flight on a 737-8 in July, and I really hope by that point the decision's been made that they all need to be scrapped and start again.
    It's the same airframe as before. Scrapping them would be stupid. But there does seem to be a problem with the systems they introduced with this model. Once that's sorted out, as it should have been in testing before certification, the plane will be fine. The question is how long will that take. The other question is, assuming this story to be true, is Boeing going to be open to civil and/or criminal actions. While the latter are possible, the former are nearly a certainty, if suits haven't already been filed.
    The flight characteristics are very different which is why Boeing had to add the MCAS. 

    I don’t see the concluding for months and Boeing, along with the FAA, are going to pay dearly. 
    cgWerks
  • Reply 11 of 54
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,570administrator
    Apart from the mention of iPads, I'm unclear why this has appeared here, but I'm utterly astonished if this is the case (it seems to exist as news currently only also on flightaware and a few other non-mainstream news sites).

    It seems the more we learn about this fiasco the more it would appear that there should be prosecutions brought against people who made these decisions at Boeing, quite possibly charges of manslaughter. I'm currently booked on a return flight on a 737-8 in July, and I really hope by that point the decision's been made that they all need to be scrapped and start again.
    The answer to your question seems pretty obvious.
    king editor the grate
  • Reply 12 of 54
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,614member
    wood1208 said:
    Don't believe what you read. Pilots are trained in many ways including flight simulators,cockpit practical flying,etc. Than, they fly for thousands of hours call on job perfecting skills.
    I don't think the suggestion is that just anyone off the street was put in the 737-8 cockpit after a few hours on an iPad, that's obviously ridiculous.

    AppleInsider said:
    It was determined that, at least in the case of the Max, pilots with prior 737 experience [my emphasis] learned about the new plane using an iPad for two hours, as well as a 13-page handbook of differences between the Max and earlier models.
    That's just about plausible, but still criminal - quite possibly literally.
    Why?  The 737-8 is pretty much identical physically as the prior planes, sans more elaborate software.  Same controls, etc.  It's not like there's a physical defect that caused the planes to crash.  If a 737 pilot with thousands of flight-hours starts on a 737-8, why re-learn everything that hasn't changed?  If all it is is software about this anti-stalling feature, I really don't have a problem with training on something as humble as an iPad if it's for information-use only.  Sure, simulators would be much better in any situation.

    What I have a problem with is Boeing's lack of transparency here.  if all it takes is a software fix, great.  The problem I have is testing/training on the updated software.  Buggy software on my PC could cause it to lock up, requiring a reboot and life moves on until a fix is made.  Buggy software in the 737's flightOS could cause the plane to literally fall down from the sky, killing hundreds of people.  That kind of unreliability is inexcusable.  Boeing really needs to step up here, which to me seems like they're asleep at the wheel.
    DAalsethravnorodomJFC_PA
  • Reply 13 of 54
    viclauyycviclauyyc Posts: 350member
    All 737-max 8 pilots are train on different varieties of 737 simulator before, just not specifically on Max8. The problematic MCAS is completely automatic, not even the pilots can turn it off. So I guess Boeing not even bother to educate the pilots how to handle the “features” when it goes nuts. 
    ravnorodomcgWerks
  • Reply 14 of 54
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,160member
    maestro64 said:
    wood1208 said:
    Don't believe what you read. Pilots are trained in many ways including flight simulators,cockpit practical flying,etc. Than, they fly for thousands of hours call on job perfecting skills.
    Yes, all pilots are trained, but most have not idea why a plane flies (lack the engineering and technical skills). If you do not think this is important, just think about the two crashes.

    Most likely we will hear there was some sort of bad data feeding (angle of attack sensor) the automatic flight controls which cause the plane to nose dive into the ground. However, it is easily corrected by turning off the automatic flight controls and fly the plane by the seat of your pants. The problem is no airline wants the pilots not following the book or flying by the seat of their pants. If you watch Sully the movie and watch what they did in the hearing, they focused on him not flying by the book and doing his own analysis and what was best and turned out to be the best. They do not want pilots not following their official training.

    If you are flying outside US airlines, you may want to think twice about getting on the plane especially now with them becoming even more complex to fly with all the automatic controls. US pilots are still better than any pilots around the world they tend to have why more flight time on multiply platforms or know one really well. Because of these automatic flight systems it allows Airline to use lower skilled Pilots since the computers are doing most all of the heavy work.
    I was reading about Sully Sullenberger's Facebook post saying one of the co pilots in the Ethiopian crash only had 200 hours of training. The U.S. requires 1,500 hours of training for pilots. 
  • Reply 15 of 54
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 336member
    klink172 said: The flight characteristics are very different which is why Boeing had to add the MCAS. 

    I don’t see the concluding for months and Boeing, along with the FAA, are going to pay dearly. 
    It sounds like they were merely getting some conversion training as the type certification may be the same. Obviously that wasn't adequate.

    I had some trouble understanding the problem that requires MCAS as a solution.

    Most of the articles were describing how the larger engines had to be mounted further forward and higher to clear the ground (along with longer nose gear). That would, in my mind, result in a shift forward in the centre of gravity and result in a nose down tendency which is the opposite of what MCAS is correcting.

    An article yesterday explained that there is also a shift in the thrust line. That's what causes the pitch up. If the pitch up is severe enough (maybe in the event of an emergency go-around) the angle of attack could go high enough to result in a stall of the wing. MCAS was supposed to correct for that.

    Bad sensor readings may result in MCAS aggressively re-trimming the tailplane into a strong pitch down. If the pilot doesn't understand what's happening and how to override… Boeing ends up with a serious failure.
    DAalsethtmaydysamoria
  • Reply 16 of 54
    maestro64 said:
    wood1208 said:
    Don't believe what you read. Pilots are trained in many ways including flight simulators,cockpit practical flying,etc. Than, they fly for thousands of hours call on job perfecting skills.
    Yes, all pilots are trained, but most have not idea why a plane flies (lack the engineering and technical skills). If you do not think this is important, just think about the two crashes.

    Most likely we will hear there was some sort of bad data feeding (angle of attack sensor) the automatic flight controls which cause the plane to nose dive into the ground. However, it is easily corrected by turning off the automatic flight controls and fly the plane by the seat of your pants. The problem is no airline wants the pilots not following the book or flying by the seat of their pants. If you watch Sully the movie and watch what they did in the hearing, they focused on him not flying by the book and doing his own analysis and what was best and turned out to be the best. They do not want pilots not following their official training.

    If you are flying outside US airlines, you may want to think twice about getting on the plane especially now with them becoming even more complex to fly with all the automatic controls. US pilots are still better than any pilots around the world they tend to have why more flight time on multiply platforms or know one really well. Because of these automatic flight systems it allows Airline to use lower skilled Pilots since the computers are doing most all of the heavy work.
    I was reading about Sully Sullenberger's Facebook post saying one of the co pilots in the Ethiopian crash only had 200 hours of training. The U.S. requires 1,500 hours of training for pilots. 
    Though not a plus, it wasn’t a contributing factor. 
  • Reply 17 of 54
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,160member
    sflocal said:
    wood1208 said:
    Don't believe what you read. Pilots are trained in many ways including flight simulators,cockpit practical flying,etc. Than, they fly for thousands of hours call on job perfecting skills.
    I don't think the suggestion is that just anyone off the street was put in the 737-8 cockpit after a few hours on an iPad, that's obviously ridiculous.

    AppleInsider said:
    It was determined that, at least in the case of the Max, pilots with prior 737 experience [my emphasis] learned about the new plane using an iPad for two hours, as well as a 13-page handbook of differences between the Max and earlier models.
    That's just about plausible, but still criminal - quite possibly literally.
    Why?  The 737-8 is pretty much identical physically as the prior planes, sans more elaborate software.  Same controls, etc.  It's not like there's a physical defect that caused the planes to crash.  If a 737 pilot with thousands of flight-hours starts on a 737-8, why re-learn everything that hasn't changed?  If all it is is software about this anti-stalling feature, I really don't have a problem with training on something as humble as an iPad if it's for information-use only.  Sure, simulators would be much better in any situation.

    What I have a problem with is Boeing's lack of transparency here.  if all it takes is a software fix, great.  The problem I have is testing/training on the updated software.  Buggy software on my PC could cause it to lock up, requiring a reboot and life moves on until a fix is made.  Buggy software in the 737's flightOS could cause the plane to literally fall down from the sky, killing hundreds of people.  That kind of unreliability is inexcusable.  Boeing really needs to step up here, which to me seems like they're asleep at the wheel.
    The 737 Max 8 is actually different physically. The Max 8 has bigger engines that are on a different position of the aircraft compared to older 737 models. With larger engines in a different position, the center of gravity shifted forward on the new Max 8 models. That can cause the nose to pitch up during takeoff. I believe that's why Boeing has that new MCAS software to counter that. Going off what has been reported so far, I'm going to assume faulty software/sensors and lack of training caused both crashes. 
    tmaydysamoria
  • Reply 18 of 54
    Hard to put much faith in an article with so many grammatical errors:

    "...pilots were given two hours of TUITION on an iPad "    I'm guessing this should be INSTRUCTION

    "The safety issues HAS prompted many to investigate.."    HAVE

    "...
    including TUITION for an automated system to avoid stalling. "  Must really like the word tuition.

    There are more, but that's enough for now.   And even when there aren't grammatical errors, it's just very poorly written.
  • Reply 19 of 54
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,705member
    sflocal said:
    wood1208 said:
    Don't believe what you read. Pilots are trained in many ways including flight simulators,cockpit practical flying,etc. Than, they fly for thousands of hours call on job perfecting skills.
    I don't think the suggestion is that just anyone off the street was put in the 737-8 cockpit after a few hours on an iPad, that's obviously ridiculous.

    AppleInsider said:
    It was determined that, at least in the case of the Max, pilots with prior 737 experience [my emphasis] learned about the new plane using an iPad for two hours, as well as a 13-page handbook of differences between the Max and earlier models.
    That's just about plausible, but still criminal - quite possibly literally.
    Why?  The 737-8 is pretty much identical physically as the prior planes, sans more elaborate software.  Same controls, etc.  It's not like there's a physical defect that caused the planes to crash.  If a 737 pilot with thousands of flight-hours starts on a 737-8, why re-learn everything that hasn't changed?  If all it is is software about this anti-stalling feature, I really don't have a problem with training on something as humble as an iPad if it's for information-use only.  Sure, simulators would be much better in any situation.

    What I have a problem with is Boeing's lack of transparency here.  if all it takes is a software fix, great.  The problem I have is testing/training on the updated software.  Buggy software on my PC could cause it to lock up, requiring a reboot and life moves on until a fix is made.  Buggy software in the 737's flightOS could cause the plane to literally fall down from the sky, killing hundreds of people.  That kind of unreliability is inexcusable.  Boeing really needs to step up here, which to me seems like they're asleep at the wheel.
    Identical except for the engines, wing structure and flight characteristics. But apart from that, sure.  They are all called 737. The rest must be cosmetic.  
    /sarc
    StrangeDaysdysamoria
  • Reply 20 of 54
    jimh2jimh2 Posts: 137member
    boltsfan17 said:
    I was reading about Sully Sullenberger's Facebook post saying one of the co pilots in the Ethiopian crash only had 200 hours of training. The U.S. requires 1,500 hours of training for pilots. 
    That is not surprising. When you jump on an airplane from another country (other than 1st world) you are potentially flying with a true "rookie". Stick the main airlines to avoid this type of situation. 
    horvatic
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