A Boeing Employee Called Lion Air, the Airline in the First 737 Max Crash, ‘Idiots’ for Asking to Have Its Pilots Trained in Flying the Plane

 In GDI, Defense, Air
  • Internal mes­sages from Boeing employ­ees reveal that one called Lion Air, the air­line involved in the first fatal 737 Max crash, “idiots” for want­i­ng sim­u­la­tor train­ing for its pilots.
  • Lion Air inquired about the train­ing, prompt­ing an employ­ee in 2017 to say it might be “because of their own stu­pid­i­ty,” accord­ing to reports by Bloomberg and Forbes.
  • A Lion Air Boeing 737 Max plane crashed and killed all 189 people on board in October 2018, and the final inci­dent report point­ed partly to the plane’s tech­nol­o­gy and how pilots were not fully trained to deal with it.
  • Boeing sold the plane on the basis that pilots who could already fly pre­vi­ous 737 models would not need sim­u­la­tor train­ing, making it cheap­er and faster for air­lines to intro­duce it to their fleets.
  • It relent­ed this month, saying it would rec­om­mend pilots train in sim­u­la­tors before flying Max planes.
  • The mes­sages were part of a drove of doc­u­ments released by Boeing, which showed employ­ees talk­ing about con­cerns with the plane but still push­ing its pro­duc­tion for­ward.
  • Visit Business Insider’s home­page for more sto­ries.

Boeing employ­ees called the air­line involved in the first fatal crash of a Boeing 737 Max plane crash “idiots” for want­i­ng train­ing before the air­line start­ed to fly the plane model.

Internal mes­sages between Boeing employ­ees revealed that employ­ees were alarmed when Lion Air inquired about its pilots get­ting train­ing in a sim­u­la­tor before they start­ed to fly the new plane model.

The mes­sages, released by Boeing, are redact­ed, but the US House trans­porta­tion com­mit­tee gave Bloomberg some excerpts with Lion Air’s name unredact­ed. Forbes also iden­ti­fied Lion Air as the sub­ject of the mes­sages.

The mes­sages, which mocked the air­line’s inquiry, came as Boeing also con­vinced Lion Air that such train­ing was not nec­es­sary — an idea Boeing used as a key sell­ing point to air­lines — both out­lets report­ed.

They are from June 2017, the same month when Lion Air asked Boeing about addi­tion­al train­ing.

In one exchange, an unnamed employ­ee wrote: “Now frig­gin [Lion Air] might need a sim to fly the MAX, and maybe because of their own stu­pid­i­ty. I’m scram­bling trying to figure out how to unscrew this now! Idiots.”

A col­league respond­ed: “WHAT THE F%$&!!!! But their sister air­line is already flying it!” — appar­ent­ly a ref­er­ence to the Malaysian car­ri­er Malindo Air, which was already flying the plane.

Lion Air did not com­ment on whether it was the car­ri­er named in the mes­sages, but people famil­iar with the exchanges told Bloomberg that Lion Air had inquired about sim­u­la­tor train­ing before accept­ing Boeing’s line that it was not nec­es­sary.

One of Lion Air’s Boeing 737 Max planes then crashed in October 2018, killing all 189 people on board.

The final report into the crash crit­i­cized Boeing’s design of the plane and crit­i­cized the man­u­fac­tur­er for not telling air­lines about new soft­ware on the plane that mal­func­tioned during both the Lion Air crash and anoth­er one months later.

An Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed in March, killing all 157 people on board. The crash result­ed in the Max planes being ground­ed around the world, where they still remain at a cost of bil­lions of dol­lars to air­lines and Boeing.

Boeing is still seek­ing reg­u­la­to­ry approval for upgrades it has made to the plane that would let it fly again.

Boeing had pushed back against the idea of simulator training as unnecessary

Boeing had argued that addi­tion­al train­ing was not nec­es­sary for pilots because of the plane’s sim­i­lar­i­ty to pre­vi­ous Boeing 737 models, making its adop­tion cheap­er and quick­er for air­lines and thus a more attrac­tive pur­chase.

In a March 2017 inter­nal email released in the doc­u­ments, Boeing’s 737 chief tech­ni­cal pilot wrote:

“I want to stress the impor­tance of hold­ing firm that there will not be any type of sim­u­la­tor train­ing required to tran­si­tion from NG to MAX. Boeing will not allow that to happen. We’ll go face to face with any reg­u­la­tor who tries to make that a require­ment.”

American pilots have been crit­i­cal of Boeing for not telling air­lines about the new soft­ware, known as MCAS.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, who was later fired, also defend­ed the com­mu­ni­ca­tion about the soft­ware after the second crash by saying it was “embed­ded” into the way pilots han­dled the plane and so “when you train on the air­plane, you are being trained on MCAS.”

Forbes report­ed that Lion Air had inquired about its pilots get­ting one sim­u­la­tor ses­sion and 24 hours of class­room time before flying the plane.

Boeing 737 Max cockpit

The cock­pit of a Boeing 737 Max plane. Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Boeing reversed its posi­tion only this month, saying it would rec­om­mend pilots train in sim­u­la­tors before flying Max planes once it returns to ser­vice.

One ana­lyst then noted that this could up the cost for air­lines — which are already strug­gling under the cost of the Max crisis — and removes one of the air­lines’ main incen­tives for buying the plane.

Jonathan Raviv, a Citi ana­lyst, said in a research note: “This erodes one of the key sell­ing points of the Max in the first place.”

A series of messages show employees were concerned about the plane but let it go to production

More than 100 pages of doc­u­ments obtained by Reuters show­ing employ­ee dis­cus­sions about the Max plane reveal that some employ­ees were aware of issues with the plane.

Two Boeing employ­ees said eight months before the first crash that they would­n’t let their fam­i­lies fly on the 737 Max.

And one employ­ee said in May, after both crash­es: “I still haven’t been for­giv­en by god for the cov­er­ing up I did last year. Can’t do it one more time. The Pearly gates will be closed.”

Another employ­ee wrote: “This air­plane is designed by clowns who in turn are super­vised by mon­keys.”

Relatives of those killed on the planes described the release of the doc­u­ments in har­row­ing terms to Business Insider.

Chris Moore, the father of Danielle Moore, 24, who was killed, said that he spent “an ago­niz­ing night” think­ing about the mes­sages and that the fam­i­lies of those killed were the “punch line” of a joke among Boeing staff.

Boeing said the com­mu­ni­ca­tions “do not reflect the com­pa­ny we are and need to be” and were “com­plete­ly unac­cept­able”:

“We regret the con­tent of these com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and apol­o­gize to the FAA, Congress, our air­line cus­tomers, and to the flying public for them. We have made sig­nif­i­cant changes as a com­pa­ny to enhance our safety process­es, orga­ni­za­tions, and cul­ture.

“The lan­guage used in these com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and some of the sen­ti­ments they express, are incon­sis­tent with Boeing values, and the com­pa­ny is taking appro­pri­ate action in response. This will ulti­mate­ly include dis­ci­pli­nary or other per­son­nel action, once the nec­es­sary reviews are com­plet­ed.”

Source: Business Insider (Military & Defense)

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