Canada transport minister wants simulator training for 737 MAX fix

FILE PHOTO: An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft is seen on the ground at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

By Allison Lampert

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Canada called on Wednesday for pilots to receive training on simulators for new Boeing 737 MAX software, rather than computer courses, going a step beyond proposals by U.S. regulators and opening the door to disagreement over measures to end a global grounding of the jets after two fatal crashes.

Boeing Co is under pressure to deliver a software update and new training proposals for the MAX to global regulators following a Lion Air crash in October and an Ethiopian crash in March, which killed 346 people combined.

In comments to Reuters, Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau said computer-based training, which some pilots had received to transition from older versions of Boeing's 737 to the latest 737 MAX, would not go far enough to satisfy Canada.

"It's not going to be a question of pulling out an iPad and spending an hour on it," he said in Montreal. "Simulators are the very best way, from a training point of view, to go over exactly what could happen in a real way and to react properly to it."

Garneua's comments came after a draft report from a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) appointed board recommended additional training without requiring a simulator.

Canada's call for obligatory training time illustrates the challenges faced by the FAA panel, which includes foreign regulators, in securing a common global blueprint for the ungrounding of the 737 MAX.

The FAA declined to comment.

Garneau said the training must include time in a simulator so pilots can rehearse the circumstances of the Lion Air crash in Indonesia last October.

In that crash as well as the Ethiopian Airlines disaster, pilots lost control of the planes soon after taking off. Investigators are focused in part on an anti-stall system called the MCAS, or maneuvering characteristics augmentation system, which can repeatedly push the plane's nose down.

Canada already took measures on pilot training following the Lion Air crash, working with Canadian MAX operators WestJet Airlines, Air Canada and Sunwing to require a five-step memorized pilot checklist for runaway stabilizer.

United Airlines, which owns 14 MAX, said it does not currently plan to add simulator training to its regime, which already requires pilots to memorize steps for runaway stabilizer.

"But obviously, if federal - if the regulatory authorities request that as added training, we will comply with that request," United's Chief Operating Officer Gregory Hart said on a conference call on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; additional reporting by Tracy Rucinski in Chicago and David Shepardosn in Washington; editing by G Crosse and Marguerita Choy)