American Airlines Eyes Boeing 737 MAX Pilot Training In November

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American Airlines is gearing up for the return of the Boeing 737 MAX to service. The airline has tentatively scheduled pilot training on the MAX for November. This comes after a few months of progress on the MAX’s return. However, the FAA and global regulators have still not yet recertified the aircraft, with no clear cut timeline given.

Boeing 737 MAX, Grounding, One Year
American Airlines is preparing for Boeing 737 MAX training in November. Photo: Getty Images

Pilot training on the 737 MAX

A memo seen by Reuters indicates that American Airlines is anticipating 737 MAX pilot training for its pilots starting in November. The initial plans are for American’s pilots to conduct a 100-minute distance learning training module as well as simulator training. The simulator session will entail a one hour brief and a two-hour simulator event, according to the memo.

About 1,700 pilots are expected to be trained in November if American’s plans go through. The airline hopes that all training can be completed by the end of January 2021, though that timeline depends on many factors, including the recertification of the 737 MAX.

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American Airlines 737 MAX
American and other airlines are hopeful the MAX will be able to reenter commercial service this year. Photo: Getty Images

American Airlines provided Simple Flying the following comment:

“We have not made any definitive plans regarding the MAX. We have initiated the pilot training scheduling process, which can be adjusted depending on when the MAX is recertified. We remain in contact with the FAA and Boeing on the recertification process.”

The FAA is eyeing pilot training

Back in August, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for an airworthiness directive (AD) concerning the Boeing 737 MAX. The NPRM is a draft AD available for public comment, which closes at 23:59 EST on Monday.

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The FAA did not indicate precisely what training it would mandate on the MAX. Instead, it stated it was conducting an operational evaluation that will assess how the proposed changes to the design of the aircraft will impact pilot training. This evaluation is being held jointly with regulatory agencies from Brazil, Canada, and Europe.

American Airlines 737 MAX
American Airlines has 24 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in its fleet with another 76 on order. Photo: Getty Images

Once the analysis is complete, only then will the full extent of pilot training be known. The timeline for this training at American Airlines could then shift depending on when and what the FAA requires to be included in the pilot training.

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Moving closer to a 737 MAX return

As the global grounding stretches beyond 18 months, airlines and Boeing are eager to see the aircraft reenter commercial service. Regulators have been scrutinizing the plane and working to ensure its safety.

For both Boeing and regulators, any faults found with the 737 MAX after its recertification or any other incidents with the aircraft could seriously jeopardize the already hampered image of the 737 MAX, Boeing, and the FAA. Thus, both parties are working to ensure that the MAX follows the lead of new airplane types and becomes one of the safest aircraft in the skies.

The FAA has not given a timeline for when the MAX will return to service. The regulatory has, however, provided some updates in the past as to what steps remain for certification. With the comment period for the proposed AD closing, the FAA will then need to review all comments, determine if any changes need to be made, and finalize those changes – likely with the consultation of its fellow regulators from Europe, Canada, and Brazil.

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American Airlines 737-800 aircraft
American Airlines was a fan of the 737 MAX due to, at the time of purchase, its commonality with the Boeing 737 Next Generation series (pictured above), which would reduce costs and integration hiccups for the aircraft in American’s fleet. Photo: Getty Images

Moreover, once the FAA does complete its recertification process and global regulators lift the grounding, airlines will need to ensure that its aircraft are airworthy. Some or all of the costs of getting the plane recertified will likely be covered under warranty, but it will take Boeing and airlines time to get the aircraft back in service.

Assuming that the FAA releases plans for pilot training and design changes necessary on the MAX by October, then American would then be able to initiate simulator training as soon as November. Any delays from the FAA, however, could push that date out even further, throwing a wrench in American’s plan and requiring them to reschedule pilot training.

American flies two 737 MAX from Roswell to Tulsa
American Airlines has been waiting for a while to get the MAX back into service. Photo: Getty Images

As of now, it looks like the FAA will be mandating some amount of pilot training. This was something Boeing was hoping to avoid with the MAX; however, in the interest of safety, after gaining insight into the systems on the MAX, the FAA will likely mandate training based on the necessary aircraft design changes, and American is gearing up for it.

Do you think American Airlines will be able to conduct pilot training for the 737 MAX this year? Let us know in the comments!

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