'Our airplanes are safe,' Boeing says as officials push training after Lion Air crash

Boeing chief Dennis Muilenburg said he was "very confident" in the safety of the 737 MAX, the newest version of a jet that has been a fixture of passenger travel for decades.
PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA/SEATTLE - Aviation authorities in Indonesia and India on Thursday (Dec 6) pushed for more simulator training for Boeing Co 737 MAX pilots following the deadly Lion Air crash, while the world's largest planemaker reiterated that its top-selling jetliner was safe.

Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg told a CNBC interviewer on Thursday he was "very confident" in the safety of the 737 MAX, the newest version of a jet that has been a fixture of passenger travel for decades.

"We know our airplanes are safe," Muilenburg said. "We have not changed our design philosophy."

Muilenburg's comments came the same day that India's aviation regulator said 737 MAX pilots should be trained on a simulator that replicates the suspected scenario that led to the crash, while Indonesia's Transport Ministry said it would immediately impose new requirements for simulator training.

Also on Thursday, Lion Air confirmed an earlier Reuters report that it was considering cancelling 737 MAX orders after the jetliner plunged into the Java Sea on Oct 29, killing all 189 people onboard.

Lion Air plane carrying 189 people crashes into sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta

  • Chief of Indonesia's Lion Air flight JT610 search and rescue operations Muhammad Syaugi looks through recovered belongings believed to be from the crashed flight at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta
  • A pair of infant shoes is pictured among recovered belongings believed to be from the crashed Lion Air flight JT610 at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta.
  • There were 189 people on board flight JT610 of budget airline Lion Air when ground staff lost contact with the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft early on Monday, 13 minutes after it had left the airport in Jakarta, the capital.
  • Rescue team members arrange the wreckage, showing part of the logo of Lion Air flight JT610, that crashed into the sea
  • A crying mother shows a graduation picture of her son, Agil Nugroho Septian, who was a passenger on Lion Air flight JT610, that crashed into the sea, at her house in Tegal, Indonesia, October 29, 2018.
  • Lutfiani shows an undated picture of her husband, Deryl Fida Febrianto, a passenger on Lion Air flight JT610, that crashed into the sea, at her house in Surabaya, Indonesia, October 29, 2018.
  • A witness in the Karawang district said he had heard an explosion from the beach around the time the aircraft went down.
  • Sangeeta Suneja, mother of Bhavye Suneja, a pilot of Lion Air flight JT610 which crashed into the sea, reacts as she leaves for Jakarta, in New Delhi
  • Gulshan Suneja, father of pilot Bhavye Suneja.
  • Sony Setiawan (C) speaks to journalists at Pangkal Pinang airport in Bangka Belitung province on October 29, 2018, following his arrival on another airline after missing his pre-planned flight on Lion Air flight JT 610 which crashed off the coast north of Jakarta. - Setiawan was due to board the ill-fated Boeing-737 MAX but was held up on his commute to Soekarno-Hatta airport by Jakarta’s notorious traffic congestion.
  • A forensics team carries bodies of the victims of Lion Air flight JT610 to Sukanto National Police Hospital, East Jakarta, on Monday. In a statement, Lion Air said human remains had been collected in 24 body bags after sweeps of the crash site, which is about 15 km (nine miles) off the coast to the northeast of Jakarta.
  • Rescue team members carry a body bag with the remains of a passenger.
  • Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati hugs a relative of a victim of the Lion Air flight JT610 crash.
  • The Indonesian authorities have mounted a search and rescue operation for a Lion Air plane which crashed into the sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta on Monday (Oct 29) morning.
  • There are 189 passengers and crew on board the plane, including two infants, one child, two pilots and six cabin crew.
  • The plane plunged into Karawang Bay, West Java province, Mr Muhammad Syaugi, head of the national search and rescue agency, told a press briefing.
  • The waters at the crash site are around 30m to 35m deep.
  • "On the sea surface, we found debris… The location is two nautical miles from where the plane lost contact," he told reporters.
  • The crash site is near a facility of state-owned oil company Pertamina in West Java province. A video taken from a Pertamina vessel near the crash site showed oil patches on the water surface.
  • Officials said the plane had requested a return to base before finally disappearing from the radar.
  • Local TV footage also showed wallets and mobile phones that had been retrieved from the waters.
  • The head of Indonesia's national transportation safety committee (KNKT) Dr Soerjanto Tjahjono told reporters that the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane that crashed entered service in August this year and had clocked only about 800 flight hours.
  • When asked on the cause of the crash, Dr Soerjanto said: "We can't presume anything before finding the blackbox and also the recording from the (air traffic control) tower."
  • An Indonedian boatman takes pictures as debris from the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT 610 floats at sea in the waters north of Karawang, West Java province.

Lion Air, a privately owned budget airline, has 190 Boeing jets worth US$22 billion (S$30.1 billion) at list prices waiting to be delivered, on top of 197 already taken, making it one of the largest US export customers. Other MAX customers, including large US carriers, have reiterated they are confident in the plane.

Crash investigators are focusing on the possibility that a new anti-stall system that repeatedly pushed the Lion Air jetliner's nose down was being fed by erroneous data from a faulty sensor left in place after a previous hazardous flight.

Lion Air has 190 Boeing jets worth US$22 billion at list prices waiting to be delivered, on top of 197 already taken, making it one of the largest US export customers.

Boeing has said cockpit procedures that were applied on the previous flight are already in place to tackle such a problem. But US regulators have said Boeing was also examining a possible software fix, after coming under fire for not outlining recent changes to the automated system in the manual for the 737 MAX.

SIMULATOR TRAINING

Extra training has also become a key focus after the crash.

Lion Air expects to have its own 737 MAX simulator next year, Managing Director Daniel Putut said last week.

A simulator can cost between US$6 million and US$15 million depending how it is customised and take about a year to be delivered, aviation training firm CAE said.

CAE has sold about 30 737 MAX simulators to airlines around the world - four of which were in service so far, the company said.

Southwest Airlines Co said it had one MAX simulator on order before the Lion Air crash, while American Airlines said it was working with pilots on training.

Separately, American Airlines has added to its mandatory pilot training materials discussion of the scenario faced by the Lion Air pilots and differences between the MAX and its predecessor, the 737NG, said Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents American Airlines pilots.

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