Boeing hires its own pilots to smooth return of 737

Aerospace giant Boeing is reportedly hiring 160 pilots to be embedded at airlines in a bid to help the 737 Max to return to smooth service.

The new “Global Engagement Pilots” will act as instructors or cockpit observers on 35-day assignments.

The plane was grounded worldwide in March 2019 following two deadly crashes that killed 346 people.

Brazil’s Gol recently became the first airline to resume commercial flights with the model.

“We continue to work closely with global regulators and customers to safely return the 737-8 and 737-9 to service worldwide,” Boeing told the BBC in a statement. 

The move is part of a broader programme to support customers on all Boeing commercial models. 

The pilots will be paid an equivalent annual salary that could reach $200,000, for a total potential cost of $32m, according to Reuters news agency.

Pilots in the programme must have 1,000 hours of instructor experience and “no incidents, accidents, losses or violations,” and be licensed on the 737 and other Boeing jetliners.

The strategy also includes 24/7 surveillance of 737 Max flights globally and talking points for flight attendants to reassure passengers.

Cleared for take-off

Lion Air Flight 610 crashed after take-off from Jakarta in October 2018, while Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed after take-off from Addis Ababa airport in March 2019.

Before the 737 Max was cleared to fly again, Boeing updated flight control software, revised crew procedures and rerouted internal wiring.

When it was cleared to fly again, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration Steve Dickson said he was “100% confident” in the safety of the plane.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency is yet to clear the plane for a return to service, but is expected to do so in January.

A smooth return to service is seen as vital for Boeing, which announced its fourth straight quarterly loss in October, along with deeper job cuts. 

The 737 MAX issue saw annual orders drop to their lowest level in two decades. 

Boeing’s problems have also been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected the entire aviation sector.

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