Lion Air Had Thought About Requiring 737 MAX Simulator Training

In June 2017, over one year before the fatal Lion Air flight 610, representatives from Lion Air sought simulator training for Boeing 737 MAX pilots. Employees from Boeing, however, disagreed with that assessment and dissuaded Lion Air from requiring simulator training.

Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX
Lion Air reportedly was interested in 737 MAX simulator training in June 2017. Photo: Boeing

Lion Air looks into 737 MAX simulator training

The Points Guy reported that Lion Air initially sought simulator training for Boeing 737 MAX pilots. However, Boeing employees disagreed with that assessment and worked with airline representatives to enter the 737 MAX into service without simulator training.

Boeing disagreed with Lion Air’s interest in simulator training for 737 MAX pilots. Photo: Boeing

To Boeing, the 737 MAX was simply an updated version of the incredibly popular 737NG– not a brand new aircraft. Documents provided to Congress by Boeing and released by the New York Times shows Boeing’s insistence that the 737 MAX was safe to fly without any additional simulator training.

Boeing’s 737 Chief Technical pilot had the following to say in an email on March 28, 2017:

“I want to stress the importance of holding firm that there will not be any type of simulator training required to transition from NG to MAX. Boeing will not allow that to happen. We’ll go face to face with any regulator who tries to make that a requirement.”

In email conversations with an employee titled “Deputy Training B 737”, Boeing’s 737 Chief Technical Pilot insisted that 737 MAX training was unnecessary:

“I’d be happy to share the operational differences presentation with you, to help you understand that a MAX simulator is both impractical and unnecessary for your pilots.”

In other communication Boeing also had concerns over 737 MAX simulator training becoming more widespread:

“[T]o require a MAX simulator for its pilots beyond what all other regulators are requiring that it will be creating a difficult and unnecessary training burden for your airline, as well as potentially establish a precedent in your region for other MAX customers”

Boeing 737 MAX takeoff
Boeing employees were concerned about setting a precedent for simulator training for 737 MAX pilots. Photo: Boeing

Why Boeing would not recommend simulator training

At the time, the 737 MAX had just entered commercial service. All seemed well and Boeing looked to have another profitable line on its hands. The 737 MAX offered some impressive narrowbody economics and was one of the highlights of aviation in 2017.

737 MAX Malindo
The 737 MAX was one of the highlights of commercial aviation in 2017. Photo: Boeing

Moreover, worldwide regulators had certified the 737 MAX as safe for commercial operation. And, requiring simulator training that was not required would delay further 737 MAX introduction with Lion Air. With cutthroat competition from the A320neo lineup, Boeing needed to show off the 737 MAX’s commercial capability.

Where we are today with the 737 MAX?

Now, Boeing will recommend 737 MAX simulator training. Almost three years after those original communiques, the aviation world has learned a lot more about the 737 MAX. Unfortunately, this came in the wake of two fatal crashes.

Grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

They say that hindsight is 20/20. Knowing everything that we know about the plane today, it would seem that, perhaps, simulator training could have prevented both incidents leading to the MAX grounding.

The 737 MAX is undergoing rigorous scrutiny from worldwide entities. Photo: Boeing

However, at this point, finger-pointing is of no use. Boeing is cooperating with civil aviation regulatory agencies, authorities from around the world are scrutinizing the aircraft, and there is greater awareness about the systems onboard this type of aircraft.

For the future, Boeing and the aviation world have learned some valuable lessons. The hallmark of commercial aircraft production is innovation. Every subsequent aircraft must be safer than its predecessors.

What do you make of this news? Let us know in the comments!