Captain of Ethiopian Airlines flight had not practiced on new simulator for Boeing 737 MAX 8 before flying it, says colleague
Captain Yared Getachew of doomed plane "did not practice on the new simulator for the Boeing 737 MAX 8" and was "due for refresher training at the end of March"
A pilot colleague of the captain of the doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed and killed all 157 on board has claimed he did not practice on a new simulator for the Boeing 737 MAX 8 before flying it.
According to the colleague, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Yared Getachew, 29, was due for refresher training at the end of March, two months after the airline had acquired one of the first simulators for the newer plane model, Daily Mail reports.
One of the biggest probes into the aviation industry was launched after the March 10 disaster, following another MAX 8 crash in Indonesia in October last year.
The investigation focuses on the safety of a new automated safety system developed by the manufacturers and whether crews had adequate know-how to maneuver it.
Both cases saw the pilots lose control soon after take-off and being unable to stop their aircraft from plunging down in a nosedive. The MAX series was upgraded recently with a new automated system called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System).
Ironically, it is meant to prevent an aerodynamic stall caused by a loss of lift sending the plane downwards out of the pilot's control.
Speaking to Reuters in a hotel lobby, the Ethiopian Airlines pilot spoke on condition of anonymity against his employer's instructions. "Boeing did not send manuals on MCAS," he said. "Actually, we know more about the MCAS system from the media than from Boeing."
Boeing, the world's largest plane manufacturer, is under unprecedented scrutiny after the disasters involving its MAX fleet. According to them, airlines were given sufficient guidance on how to respond to the activation of the MCAS software. It is currently working on updating the system to rectify any bugs which may have caused the mishaps.
While most commercial airlines pilots across the globe refresh training in simulators every six months, it was not clear if Yared's colleague - First Officer Ahmednur Mohammed, 25, who also died in the Ethiopian crash - had practiced on the new MAX simulator.
It is yet to be established if Yared or Ahmednur had trained on the said simulator or on an older one for 737s.
John Cox, an aviation safety consultant, former US Airways pilot and former air safety chairman of the US Airline Pilots Association, told Reuters: "I think that the differences between the 737 NG and the MAX were underplayed by Boeing. Consequently, the simulator manufacturers were not pushing it either. The operators didn't realize the magnitude of the differences."
While 737 MAX 8 planes were first deployed into commercial service in 2017, pilots of older 737s were only required to train on the new simulator before flying them.