Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the pilot whose quick thinking safely landed a passenger plane on the Hudson River in New York, has voiced new concern for Boeing's 737 MAX planes.
The pilot told a congressional panel at the US House Transportation Committee of his own experience behind the controls of the 737 MAX plane:
"I recently experienced all these warnings in a 737 MAX flight simulator during recreations of the accident flights. Even knowing what was going to happen, I could see how crews could have run out of time before they could have solved the problems. Prior to these accidents, I think it is unlikely that any US airline pilots were confronted with this scenario in simulator training," Sullenberger said.
This damaging assessment from the retired pilot is a blow to Boeing which is workign to get their grounded 737 MAX fleet certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration and back in the air.
Captain Sullenberger emerged as the hero of the 2009 'Miracle on the Hudson', when his actions saved the lives of 155 people. The story behind his emergency landing of the US Airways A320 made him one of the most high profile airline pilots in the world.
Referring to failings of the 737 MAX, Sullenberger said it was important that pilots were not hindered by these "inadvertent traps".
"We must make sure that everyone who occupies a pilot seat is fully armed with the information, knowledge, training, skill and judgment to be able to be the absolute master of the aircraft and all its component systems and of the situations simultaneously and continuously throughout the flight," he said.
Pilots need firsthand experience of all scenarios to prepare them for emergencies, Sullenberger said.
"Reading about it on an iPad is not even close to sufficient," he said.
737 MAX's "Inadvertent traps"
The 737 model in question came under scrutiny following two fatal accidents within 6 months. 189 passengers and crew died on Lion Air 610 on 29 October last year, and a further 157 were killed on Ethiopia Airlines 302 on 10 March.
A safety feature known as the MCAS (the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) was suspected to be at fault. When activated this software pitches the nose of the plane downwards - towards the ground - to prevent a jet from stalling. However, a faulty reading can give pilots very little time to react, and it is suspected that few pilots had experience of overriding the safety feature – creating this "inadvertent trap" for pilots.
After some hesitance, the Boeing 737 Max aircraft were grounded worldwide.
At the hearing on Wednesday the international standards of pilot training were called into question regarding the 737 safety features. Sullenberger and representative of Allied Pilots Association Daniel Carey both recommended that additional training was required for pilots of the 737 MAX aircraft.
The airplane could be returning to the skies sooner than first thought.
CNN reported that it could take four to six weeks before Boeing's troubled plane is considered airworthy, with a certification flight by the FAA expected in the next two weeks.
Sullenberger's former airline, US Airlines are expected to be flying the 737 MAX by September, and on Tuesday the International Airlines Group announced it would continue with the purchase of 200 additional 737 MAX planes from Boeing.