Physical Pilot Strength Delaying Boeing 737 MAX Re-entry To Service

Pilot strength could be delaying the Boeing 737 MAX’s re-entry to service. Reports have suggested that some pilots may not have the strength to operate the trim wheel in emergencies.

Boeing 737 MAX Trim Pilot Strength
The FAA is exploring the possibility that pilots may not be strong enough to operate the trim tab on the Boeing 737 MAX. Photo: Boeing

The Boeing 737 MAX has now been grounded for over three months while Boeing engineers attempt to fix a deadly flaw in the software. The FAA believes that the 737 MAX will fly again in 2019. However, its currently anybody’s guess as to when exactly this will be. Despite this, many airlines are planning for the aircraft to be out of action until at least September, if not later.

What’s this about pilot strength?

According to the Wall Street Journal yesterday, reporting from the Paris Air Show, the certification process of the aircraft is being delayed. According to their report, there are concerns over whether pilots would be able to operate the trim wheel during an emergency.

The trim wheel is the manual way for Boeing 737 pilots to set the trim on the aircraft. The trim is a portion of the rear elevator which can be adjusted to slightly alter the aircraft’s characteristics for a specific situation.

Boeing 737 MAX Trim Wheel Pilot Strength
Highlighted in Red, the trim wheel as seen in a Boeing 737-800 cockpit. Photo: Cory W. Watts via Flickr

The underlying problem with the 737 MAX that led to its grounding was that software was controlling this wheel. In fact, in certain circumstances, this proved fatal as full down trim was applied. Now, regulators are reportedly concerned that in extreme flight profiles pilots, especially female pilots, will struggle to overcome the forces exerted on the surface.

Is this delaying the 737 MAX’s certification?

Well, yesterday the Wall Street Journal said that this concern was delaying recertification of the Boeing 737 MAX. However, CNBC claims that the Federal Aviation Administration is not concerned about the issue delaying the aircraft.

Despite this, they also claim that the FAA is aware of the pilot strength issue, and is examining it. However, again, this particular issue is not delaying the MAX’s recertification. The Wall Street Journal adds that sources close to the situation have said:

“Neither Boeing nor regulators anticipate design or equipment changes as a result from the review”.

Six months to go

Yesterday, Simple Flying reported that the FAA believes that the Boeing 737 MAX will be back in the skies by the end of the year. As we’re already halfway through the year, this gives a time frame of around six months for recertification.

Boeing 737 MAX Trim Wheel Pilot Strength
The FAA does not believe that the concerns will delay the aircraft’s certification. Photo: Boeing

However, interested parties have time and time again refused to comment on when exactly the aircraft will fly again. The best guess that we have is based on the latest date airlines have postponed 737 MAX flights until.

Do you think pilots would struggle to operate the aircraft’s trim in emergencies? Let us know in the comments!