MCAS, or the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, is the new flight-control system on the MAX that repeatedly pushed down the nose of the aircraft on both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights. Boeing on Thursday announced that it has completed its proposed software fix for the system and hopes soon to get clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other regulators to fly the planes again.
Begashaw said Ethiopian requires 3,500 flying hours experience for any captain commanding one of its aircraft. Getachew, the youngest captain at the airline, had more than 8,100 hours flying experience.
A day after the president of an American pilots union called on Boeing to “stop blaming dead pilots,” controversy continued to reverberate around some U.S. claims that pilot error may have been a major factor in the two Boeing 737 MAX crashes.
Responding to criticism of its pilots in a congressional hearing this week and in a report written by two American airline pilots, Ethiopian Airlines strongly defended its training standards Friday and expressed regret at the “effort that is being made to divert public attention from the flight control system problem of the airplane.”
“The fact that the entire world has grounded more than 370 B737 Max 8 airplanes speaks loud and clear that the airplane has a problem,” Ethiopian’s statement adds.
Separately, well-known U.S. airline pilot and author Patrick Smith, a friend of someone who knew the Ethiopian captain on Flight 302 — 29-year-old Yared Getachew, who had flown with the airline for nine years — weighed in on the controversy over whether American pilots would have handled any better the emergencies on the fatal Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights.
At a House Aviation subcommittee hearing Wednesday, Rep. Sam Graves, R-Miss., claimed U.S. pilots would not have crashed those planes and expressed his “concerns about quality training standards in other countries.”
Smith, who runs the AskThePilot.com website, took exception, calling Graves’ comments “unfortunate.”
“A friend of mine — an American — worked for several years as a training captain at Ethiopian,” Smith said in an email. “He knew the captain of the doomed flight and spoke very highly of him, describing him as an ‘excellent pilot’ and ‘always well-prepared.’ ““Ethiopian Airlines has a long, proud history with a perfectly respectable safety record, and its flight training academy is very well respected,” Smith added. “My suspicion is that pretty much ANY two pilots facing the same malfunction would have met with the same result.”In the airline’s own response, sent via email by Asrat Begashaw, manager of corporate communications, it pointed out that it has “the largest Aviation Academy in Africa with the most modern training devices and facilities of global standards,” all accredited by international regulatory agencies.“Ethiopian Airlines is among the very few airlines in the world and the only one in Africa which has acquired and operates the B737 Max 8 full flight simulator,” Begashaw’s statement adds, something no U.S. airline can say, although the major operators now have MAX flight simulators on order. Begashaw also pointed out that “However, it’s very unfortunate that the B737 Max 8 simulator was not configured to simulate the MCAS operation by the aircraft manufacturer.”