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How to become a pilot on Boeing 737 Max? You need an iPad and one-hour lesson

Staff Writer |
What does it take to become a pilot? In the case of Boeing 737 Max it all came down to an hour of free time and an iPad.

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Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the American Airlines pilot union, told Quartz that the training prior to the Lion Air crash for pilots qualified to fly the 737-800 amounted to “an iPad lesson for an hour.”

Since the Lion Air crash, he said, pilots have had training with an instructor, and pilots have also “requested, if not demanded, simulators.”

The aircraft was developed to include changes to the flight control system that would sharply pitch the plane’s nose down if the onboard computer sensed an imminent stall.

The system, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, was incorporated because the plane has larger engines placed further forward on the craft, and so has a chance of facing a stall at lower speeds than earlier 737 variations.

In a statement, American Airlines said, “Boeing 737-800 pilots were required to receive some additional training on the MAX 8, which included an hour lesson on some differences. Additional training was not required, as the 737-800 and the MAX 8 have same type certification.”

A New York Times report said pilots at United put together a 13-page guide to the 737 Max, which did not mention the MCAS, as well as taking a two-hour iPad lesson about the plane.

Because the FAA deems the 737 Max 8 to be a variant of an already certified aircraft, the 737-800, it limits the amount of separate training required for the Max for pilots already certified to fly the older plane.

The FAA didn’t mark out MCAS in its documentation comparing the 737 Max 8 and the 737-800, meant to guide training for the Max, as a difference.

Pilots have said they first became aware of the new flight system after the Lion Air crash, when the FAA ordered 737 Max manuals to be updated and Boeing issued information directing airlines to override procedures.

The FAA said in a statement to Quartz Sunday (March 17) that while “training requirements do not address the MCAS by name, the requirements do include the knowledge to deal with an MCAS event.”

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