FAA To Require Sim Training on 737 MAX


In what is likely to be one of the last stops before approving the Boeing 737 MAX to fly again, the FAA has published updated guidelines for pilot training that requires full-motion simulator time. A central piece of the MAX controversy was Boeing’s insistence that the latest 737 variant could be spliced into flight lines and flown by pilots trained in the Next Generation (NG) versions without additional and costly sim training. The FAA document will remain open for comments until Nov. 2. 

According to the document, “The purpose of this revision is to add training requirements for Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), Autopilot Flight Director System (AFDS) enhancements, and additional Special Emphasis Training.” The document includes several “special emphasis areas” in the revised training guidelines. “Initial and transition training must emphasize the following throughout the airspeed range during manual and electric trim operations: a) Manufacturer recommended procedures for the proper use of main electric and manual stabilizer trim during normal and non-normal conditions; b) The different manual trim techniques recommended by the manufacturer; and c) The effects of the air loads on the stabilizer and the resulting trim forces in both the nose-up and nose-down directions.” In addition, “Electric and manual stabilizer trim operation during non-normal conditions training must be accomplished at least once every 36 months during recurrent training.” 

The document also calls for enhanced training for runaway stabilizer recognition and pilot reaction, including an emphasis on “the need to trim out forces on the column prior to selecting STAB TRIM cutout.” It also calls for “scenario-based training where a single malfunction results in multiple flight deck alerts that require timely pilot actions to include recognition and interpretation of the non-normal condition and prioritization of the required pilot actions,” as well as training for “erroneous high angle of attack (AOA) malfunctions.”

Presumably, this emphasis on training for the 737 MAX’s MCAS, even in its revised and less-aggressive form recently tested by the FAA (including Steve Dickson), will help ensure proper crew reaction. With the comment deadline less than a month away, it’s possible the MAX will be returned to service in November, with actual passenger flights lagging that as cash-strapped airlines prepared the mothballed jets for service. 

Marc Cook
KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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  1. I am so sick of seeing people wearing a face mask that is almost the size of a body bag. Clearly pontificating. Why not just put a paper bag over your head and cut two holes in it. It probably would be more effective.

    • So you’re saying that wearing a face mask larger than a small surgical mask has nothing to do with personal safety and the welfare of others around you, and is instead done to make a political statement instead?

    • Have you ever wondered why the diameter of a fuel filter is so much larger than the diameter of the fuel line? The answer is simple: a larger filter area results in lower restriction and better fuel flow.

      The same applies to masks. A larger mask is more comfortable to use. No pontificating required.

      [Adding pleats also has the same effect – just as pleats in some filters do.]

  2. Shouldn’t those “special emphasis areas” be part of normal flight training for any aircraft that doesn’t auto-trim?

  3. Another clear example of “money people in charge” screwing things up. This started with the various operators of the aircraft wanting a new and different aircraft that wouldn’t “cost anything” in training. To money people “training” is a screaming, oversized “4 letter” word equivalent. Then the Boeing brass, more money people, listened to their cult brothers and sisters in the airlines and came up with the plan that would somehow not include the 20 or 30 minutes of classroom and sim time necessary for the way this aircraft operates differently in specific flight regimes. On top of that, that same Boeing Brass came up the the plan to not have redundancy in the added MCAS system unless paid for separately. Another money move that operators, engineers, and maintenance folks would never have approved.
    The point here is that it is long past time to relegate “money people” to the back office locations that they are best at. They are necessary to any organization but should never be in charge of anything. Their input is important, especially when considering the various values and costs of solutions to issues and needs. Their input should never, ever include the final “say” on things. Their focus is always, correctly, on the bottom line and stock prices. There is nothing wrong with that as that is their training and expertise. BUT, they view things like training as an unnecessary cost center. During my 20 years in the 121 world after retiring from the military, I was appalled at the the way “training” was considered a sin and to be avoided at all times unless so ordered by the FAA. Yes, I am “old school” but as both a receiver and conductor of training, my staunch opinion is that “live, in-person” training is valuable and often much more effective than CBT / remote learning. Yes, there are various subjects that are effectively accomplished through CBT / remote learning. What CBT / remote learning doesn’t accomplish though is the interaction that occurs with a classroom full of people. As a platform instructor I watched various people at various times clearly or suddenly “get it” when things were talked about. These things, ideas, concept, and experiences do not get aired during CBT. This is the 121 / 135 equivalent of “hanger flying” often mentioned by the gray beards. Folks, hanger flying is an extremely valuable way to communicate and learn.
    During my time in the 121 world, I watched the in-person / in the box training time shrink, shrink, shrink. Reason, cost of course. This carries over directly to the Max issues… training costs money. Training doesn’t make any money therefore it should be relegated to the least level of importance possible. After all, training doesn’t save the company any money…

    • Unfortunately regulators are complicit in allowing substitution of classroom training with often cheaply produced CBTs by mostly concentrating on hours prescribed for the training rather than content, let alone quality. Classroom training is a hassle for airlines as it reduces rostering flexibility and therefore there’s a big drive towards CBT that is hard to stem unless regulators require a certain percentage of classroom training. Corona is not going to help at the moment. Another drawback of CBT is that the exchange of ideas and opportunity for impromptu questions that classroom training facilitated is lost, as is a podium for managers to directly address crews in person.

  4. So, the purpose of the MCAS system was to sidestep the need for additional training. Due to it’s unbelieveably botched implementation, now that it’s fixed, additional training will be required before pilots can fly it. So, what is the rationale for keeping the MCAS system now? Why not just scrap it and teach pilots to counteract the additional pitchup at high angles of attack?