By Alison Sider
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is asking pilots from airlines that fly the Boeing 737 MAX to participate in simulator testing to help validate new procedures for the plane that was grounded in March following two crashes.
The FAA said in a statement that it will invite "a cross-section of line pilots from carriers that operate the aircraft around the world," with the only requirement for participation being some previous experience at the controls of a MAX.
The aviation regulator hasn't set a schedule for the tests, but said they must be completed before the aircraft is approved to return to service. Boeing had previously said it is on track to submit materials to the FAA in a time frame that will allow the plane to return to service early in the fourth quarter.
One airline was asked to provide names for two pilot crews, including for a pair of relatively junior pilots who have been through just one cycle of recurrent training on the 737, an official said.
The FAA asked the three U.S. airlines that operate the MAX--Southwest Airlines, American Airlines Group and United Airlines Holdings-- to provide the names of some pilots who had only flown the 737 for around a year, Reuters reported previously.
The FAA said it hasn't specified a certain number of hours of flight experience for the crews.
Boeing's 737 was grounded after two crashes--an Ethiopian Airlines flight in March and a Lion Air flight in October 2018--exposed issues with the aircraft's flight-control system. The crashes claimed 346 lives.
In late June, Boeing and the FAA disclosed another flight-control problem on the MAX, involving the failure of a microprocessor that meant test pilots couldn't counteract a potential misfire of an automated system as quickly as required.
Regulators have also been focused on the speed at which pilots react to a range of extreme emergencies involving various flight-control features, and have raised concerns about whether the average pilot has enough physical strength to manually crank a flight-control wheel in such extreme situations.
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