Southwest pilots seek changes to 737 MAX runaway stabilizer procedure

David Shepardson
·2 min read

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The union representing pilots at Southwest Airlines on Monday urged U.S. regulators to simplify the procedure recommended to address an emergency that can force down the nose down of the Boeing 737 MAX, an issue in both of two fatal crashes and the plane's grounding.

Monday was the deadline for submitting public comments to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which on Oct. 6 released a draft report on revised training procedures for the MAX that has been grounded since March 2019 after two fatal crashes killed 346 people.

The FAA proposal adds new training requirements to deal with a safety system called MCAS tied to both fatal crashes.

Separately, the families of many victims of the March 2019 Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 737 MAX crash opposed the training changes as "inadequate."

The families called the changes "insufficient to ensure that 737 MAX pilots are properly equipped to handle all MCAS-related emergencies and prepared to serve as the last line of defense against another tragedy."

The FAA is requiring new safeguards to MCAS, including requiring it receive data from two sensors, before it allows the 737 MAX to return to service.

Pilots will undergo new simulator training before they can resume flights, including training on multiple flight deck alerts during unusual conditions along with how to respond to a runaway stabilizer with timely pilot actions required.

In both crashes, pilots grappled with Boeing’s flawed MCAS flight control system, which repeatedly forced down the jet’s nose, and multiple audio and visual warnings.

The Southwest pilots union said the revisions to the runaway stabilizer procedure should be simplified.

The union added "error rates increase exponentially with a

checklist containing eight memory steps including three conditional steps." After testing the checklist in a MAX "simulator" the union "found it difficult to recall the steps in order, and furthermore find this checklist is 'clunky at best.'"

The union recommends redesigning the procedure.

The British Airline Pilots Association proposed changes including requiring all five MAX special flight training elements be conducted in a MAX full-flight simulator, instead of allowing some in a 737-NG simulator.

The Allied Pilots Association recommend reducing intervals for recurrent training on runaway stabilizer from 36 months to 24 months.

Boeing declined to comment. An FAA spokesman said the agency "will evaluate all the comments we receive."

Reuters reported earlier the FAA could unground the MAX as early as mid-November.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)