American expects all of its Boeing 737 pilots to be trained by the end of January, according to a memo to pilots Monday laying out “the planned return to service for our B737 Max aircraft in the near future.” About 1,700 pilots will complete the courses in November, said the memo from Ameya Kingaonkar, director of flight training planning and scheduling.
“We have not made any definitive plans regarding the Max,” American said in a statement. “We have initiated the pilot training scheduling process, which can be canceled if the Max is not recertified. We remain in contact with the FAA and Boeing on the recertification process.”
The memo heightened speculation that the Max is closing in on final regulatory approvals that would end an 18-month grounding imposed after two fatal crashes.
Before new simulator training is approved, an international panel of regulators must complete a review that began last week of how pilots react to emergencies on the plane. A separate FAA panel that’s participating in the international review will also publish a proposed training standard in coming weeks, which will be subject to public comment.
The training includes a computer-based session that takes an hour and 40 minutes to complete, and a one-hour briefing prior to a two-hour simulator flight, the airline said. American will release the “distance learning,” or computer module, by Oct. 28.
The Allied Pilots Association “is committed to ensuring that the Max is fixed, fully vetted and pilots are robustly trained as deemed by all stakeholders. Rushing the final phase will only undermine the process and confidence in the Max’s return to service,” the union said in a statement.
The 737 Max has been grounded since March 2019 after two crashes killed 346 people. Both accidents were tied to a safety feature that malfunctioned and repeatedly commanded the jets to dive.
European aviation regulators conducted test flights earlier this month, following similar assessments conducted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Transport Canada.