Breaking: Ethiopian crash captain untrained on 737 MAX simulator:
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Ethiopian Airlines surpassed many carriers by becoming one of the first to install a simulator to teach pilots how to fly the new Boeing 737 Max 8, but the captain of the doomed Flight 302 never trained on the simulator, according to people close to the airline’s operations.
The people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Ethiopian Airlines had not authorized disclosure of the information, said the carrier had the Max 8 simulator up and running in January, two months before Flight 302 crashed.
Boeing has said that experienced 737 pilots needed little training for the new Max 8, an assertion that has now come under close scrutiny by regulatory officials and pilots at other airlines. Two of the planes have fatally crashed in the past five months, and regulators around the world grounded all Max 8s last week.
The pilot of Flight 302, Yared Getachew, who had 8,000 hours of flying experience including on the 737, took a refresher course on a different simulator in late September and early October, according to one person familiar with the airline, and was not due for another round of simulator training until after the crash on March 10.
Getachew, 29, was due for refresher training at the end of March, his colleague told Reuters, two months after Ethiopian Airlines had received one of the first such simulators being distributed.
The March 10 disaster, following another MAX 8 crash in Indonesia in October, has set off one of the biggest inquiries in aviation history, focused on the safety of a new automated system and whether crews understood it properly.
In both cases, the pilots lost control soon after take-off and fought a losing battle to stop their jets plunging down.
The MAX, which came into service two years ago, has a new automated system called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System). It is meant to prevent loss of lift which can cause an aerodynamic stall sending the plane downwards in an uncontrolled way.
“Boeing did not send manuals on MCAS,” the Ethiopian Airlines pilot told Reuters in a hotel lobby, declining to give his name as staff have been told not to speak in public.
“Actually we know more about the MCAS system from the media than from Boeing.”
Under unprecedented scrutiny and with its MAX fleet grounded worldwide, the world’s largest planemaker has said airlines were given guidance on how to respond to the activation of MCAS software. It is also promising a swift update to the system.