FAA hears from airlines that grounded the Boeing 737 Max

The Federal Aviation Association held a meeting at its headquarters Friday with the three commercial airlines that grounded the Boeing 737 Max in March — American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, and their pilot unions — in order to gain a better understanding of the plane’s safety issues.

The FAA’s intent during the three-hour meeting was to get the pilots and airlines into the conversation as they make preparations to unground the 737 Max in the next few months

The three-hour meeting centered around the preliminary findings of the investigation into the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, updated pilot training, and software updates to MCAS, the flight control system that Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg says may have been to blame for the crashes.

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FAA acting Administrator Daniel Elwell led the meeting and welcomed the input from the operators and pilots.

“The one unique aspect of this meeting is bringing them together so they can hear each other’s questions in real time and hear our answers in real time,” Elwell said in a video statement following the meeting.

FAA experts briefed on the investigation, pilot training and travel software updates, and received feedback from safety and union representatives from the three airlines. American Airlines representative Captain Dennis Tajer said he asked for a review on runway checklist procedures, calling it “an additive to the margin of safety.”

“We’re all stakeholders in this to get this done right,” Tajer said to reporters after the meeting. “Our watches are off, calendars are in the drawer, we’re going to take this on a pacing of getting it done right and getting all of our pilots’ concerns addressed.”

“Having us at the table at important meetings like this and any other meetings that go on is part of that safety culture and path to getting there,” Tajer said.

“As a pilot myself, as a longtime member of a commercial airline pilot union, I understand the dynamic, I understand how important it is to the rank and file pilot to understand what the FAA is doing,” Elwell said.

The 737 MAX model has had two major crashes within the past 12 months, an Ethiopian Airlines flight in March and a Lion Airlines flight in October, that resulted in 346 total deaths.

Tajer felt the FAA’s briefing on pilot training was useful. “The airplane certainly has to go through a lot of hoops to get ungrounded, but one of the last, and we believe most important is pilot confidence. We have to unground the confidence in this aircraft,” he said.

The Boeing 737 model has been grounded by the FAA since March 13, and American Airlines has removed it from its schedule until June, with Southwest Airlines removing it through Aug. 5. Boeing started to test updated models on Thursday 

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