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The head of a major pilots' union will criticize Boeing's training in front of Congress, calling it the company's 'final fatal mistake' with the 737 Max

Business Insider | Jun 19, 2019, 01.36AM IST

American Airlines Boeing 737 Max grounded

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American Airlines Boeing 737 Max jets.

  • The head of a major pilots' union pointed to how Boeing built the 737 Max jet and how it communicated with pilots about its systems as mistakes made by the company with the 737 Max, which crashed twice.
  • Captain Daniel Carey, the president of a union that represents 15,000 American Airlines pilots, will question if the FAA is independent enough to certify aircraft when speaking in front of Congress on Wednesday.
  • Carey will also tell Congress that Boeing's previous suggestion that pilot error may have caused the crashes "offended" his union, and that Boeing's "final fatal mistake" was not telling pilots about the systems on board the 737 Max.
  • "I completely agree with the Boeing CEO's assessment that the company let down the public with catastrophic consequences," he said in his prepared remarks.

The head of a major pilots' union pointed to Boeing's engineering and the training it gave pilots as mistakes made by the company with its 737 Max planes, and will ask Congress if the FAA's oversight over manufactures like Boeing is sufficiently independent.

Captain Daniel Carey, the president of the Allied Pilots Association, which represents 15,000 American Airlines pilots, will tell the House subcommittee on aviation on Wednesday that "unfortunately, as pilots know, improvements in aviation are often written in the blood of the unfortunate victims of airplane accidents," according to his prepared remarks.

In the remarks, Carey says that Boeing engineers made "many mistakes" with the plane's automated anti-stall system, which misfired and left the planes out of the pilots' control as they plunged toward the ground, according to the preliminary reports into the two fatal crashes involving the plane.

The crashes, in Indonesia in October 2018 and in Ethiopia in March 2019, killed a combined total of 346 people.

Read more: Here are all the investigations and lawsuits that Boeing and the FAA are facing after the 737 Max crashes killed almost 350 people

Carey said that the design relied on the pilots to act if the system misfired, but that Boeing made a "huge error of omission" by not disclosing this system, called MCAS, to pilots.

He said that the lack of training for pilots on this system was Boeing's "final fatal mistake."

The APA previously shared audio of their meeting with Boeing executives in October, after the first 737 Max crash, where they raised concerns about the plane and Boeing downplayed the idea that one could happen again. An APA spokesman told CNN in May that the second crash could have been avoided if Boeing listened to its pilots.

Boeing's previous suggestion that pilot error may have caused the crashes "offended" members of the APA, Carey said, as he criticized suggestions from some in the media that training standards may have been lower in the countries where the crashes occurred.

"To make the claim that these accidents would not happen to US-trained pilots is presumptuous and not supported by fact. Vilifying non-US pilots is disrespectful and not solution-based, nor is it in line with a sorely needed global safety culture that delivers one standard of safety and training."

He also said that Ethiopian Airlines has a simulator for the 737 Max, while no US airlines do.

Read more: The FAA says Boeing's troubled 737 Max may not fly again until December - far later than many expected

Carey said that he agreed with the apology issued by Boeing CEO Muilenburg on Monday, who said that Boeing made a "mistake" in how it handled the MCAS system.

Carey said: "Unfortunately, in the matter of the 737 MAX, I completely agree with the Boeing CEO's assessment that the company let down the public with catastrophic consequences."

His testimony is part of a House probe into how the crash came about and how the FAA oversees plane certification.

The union is also questioning how the FAA certifies planes

Carey said that the most "urgent" question is the "adequacy" of how the FAA certifies planes, questioning how it stays objective despite its close relationship to manufacturers.

Carey will ask Congress if the "FAA is sufficiently independent of the manufacturers so as to provide a legitimately rigorous audit of the manufacturers' design and engineering."

Business Insider has reached out to Boeing and the FAA for comment.

The FAA's certification system, which allows manufacturers to certify their own planes, has come under fire since the Boeing 737 Max crashes, especially after the acting head of the FAA told Congress in March that Boeing helped to certify the MCAS system itself.

The FAA delegates parts of the plane-certification process to aircraft manufacturers as part of a longstanding policy that the FAA is defending.

Daniel Elwell, the acting administrator of the FAA, told a Senate committee in March that the system produces safe aircraft, and said that the FAA would need 10,000 more employees and an additional $1.8 billion if it were to be solely responsible for aircraft-safety certifications.

Experts told Business Insider in April that the FAA's reputation is under threat and could suffer, endangering its status in the US as the gold standard for aviation safety worldwide.

Carey will also ask Congress if the FAA is "sufficiently equipped" to make sure pilot training is adequate as the technology on planes becomes more advanced.

He will also question whether an aircraft's certification should have an expiration date - pointing out that the Max jets were an upgrade of the 737, which was certified in 1967.

Read more: Boeing's 737 Max nightmare and troublesome politics threaten the US's standing as the global aviation leader

Carey said that the APA is still concerned for the future of the plane, even as Boeing works on a software update that would lift it from being grounded around the world.

He said the union is worried "about whether the new training protocol, materials and method of instruction suggested by Boeing are adequate to ensure that pilots across the globe flying the Max fleet can do so in absolute complete safety."

"We owe it to those lost souls and to the flying public, worldwide, to make sure these kinds of events never happen again," Carey says in his prepared remarks.

"As sad and grim as these crashes were, there is an opportunity to lead and bring something positive out of this darkness. "

Get the latest Boeing stock price here.

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