Captain Sully slams Boeing and says pilots need more training

‘Our system has failed us’: Miracle on the Hudson pilot ‘Sully’ says Boeing needs to give pilots new simulator training and says ‘fatally flawed’ 737 MAX should never have been approved

  • Captain Chelsey Sully Sullenberger testified before a congressional panel 
  • He said pilots needed more training to know what to do if systems failed
  • Sully, who saved 150 passengers in 2009, said pilots needed a ‘creative reserve’
  • The hearing was on Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft and the systems it uses 
  • Two of the planes have crashed in the last year, killing more than 300 on board
  • The fleet has been grounded while the company and lawmakers work to find out what happened and prevent it from happening again 
  • Sully said there are ‘systemic problems’ with airlines not giving pilots enough information or training  

The Miracle on the Hudson pilot Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, who saved 150 people by crash landing his on the Hudson River, has said Boeing needs to give pilots more training and should never have allowed the ‘fatally flawed’ 737 MAX aircraft to go to fly.  

Sully testified on Wednesday at a congressional panel about what can be done to prevent further tragedies after the two Boeing crashes in the last year which have claimed more than 300 lives.

In both incidents, one in Indonesia and one in Ethiopia, an automated flight control system known as MCAS failed and sent the 737 MAX’s into a nosedive that the pilots could not prevent by feeding inaccurate sensor data to the cockpit which suggested it was flying at an angle that it wasn’t. 

Many have blamed Boeing for the catastrophes and the company has apologized but the crashes have revealed multiple, worrying facts about how it does business. 

Through the crashes, it emerged that safety features were not required by law and were sold by Boeing as optional extras. 

Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, the pilot from the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ testified on Wednesday before a congressional panel about Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft 

Neither plane had them as a result. One was an indicator which displayed the readings of the two wing censors side by side. The other was a ‘disagree light’ which activated if the sensors were at odds.

Not only were the features optional, one – the safety light – was not working properly on the planes that did have it and Boeing knew it. The company has apologized for not being more transparent. 

On Wednesday, Captain Sully slammed the entire system and accused airlines of not being more forthcoming with information about their planes not just to the general public, but to the pilots who fly them. 

‘Our current system of aircraft design and certification has failed us. It is clear that the original version of MCAS was fatally flawed and should never have been approved,’ he said. 

Sully however added that it was up to airlines to confront pilots with scenarios they have never seen before in training to try to bolster their responses to potential tragedies.   

Sully was joined by Capt. Dan Carey of the Allied Pilots Association (to his left), Sara Nelson of the Association of Flight Attendants and former FAA administrator Randy Babbitt to give testimony to lawmakers on how to improve the industry to ensure a similar tragedy does not happen again

‘We need to do much more. I’ve seen in my career a huge tsunami of change in technology and training. 

‘I’ve seen certain trends. One is the reduction in the information about their systems compared to years ago,’ he said. 

Sully added that the FAA needed to direct airlines on how to train staff, saying: ‘Airlines need incentives to do more training in an operational flying scenario. 

‘Give them multiple challenges that they’ve never seen before, where they must have a creative reserve where they need to apply what they know to solve a problem,’ he said.

Earlier, he also accused airlines of outsourcing aircraft maintenance.  

‘More and more, airlines for, economic reasons, have outsourced much of their heavy maintenance which used to be done in house by their own employees, with their own supervisors, now to oversees locations where the FAA, even if it has the budget and staff for a visit, it’s virtually impossible for them to arrive unannounced. 

‘There’s also a problem in the industry for counterfeit parts. 

In 2009, Sully landed an Airbus A320 on the Hudson River after one of the plane’s engine’s failed. All 150 passengers and the additional crew survived. They are shown being rescued by a ferry while standing on the plane’s wings 

A Boeing 737 MAX in the Boeing factory in March this year. The fleet was grounded after the two crashes but the manufacturer is eager to get it back in the air 


 There could be delays in getting Boeing’s 737 Max jets back in the air due to concerns about whether the average pilots are physically strong enough to turn an emergency crank on the plane, sources claim.

Concerns have been raised about the difficulty of operating the 737 Max’s trim wheel system, which is a manual crank that can help change the angle of the jet’s nose.

Regulators have flagged concerns about pilots potentially not having enough physical strength to turns the crank in extreme emergencies, sources told the Wall Street Journal.

In particular, there were concerns about whether female pilots would struggle to turn the crank. But the sources said there were no plans to restrict pilots from flying the jets based solely on their strength.

The sources said the internal debates could lead to a delay in getting the 737 Max jets back in the air after they were grounded following two crashes of the plane killed 346 people.

The Federal Aviation Administration, however, said the process wasn’t been held up by concerns of pilot strength.

They acknowledged it was a known issue that was being looked in to.

It comes as U.S.-based pilots called for enhanced pilot training on the Max jets prior to the aircraft being returned to service during a congressional hearing on Wednesday.  

‘There’s some ongoing systemic issues that have never been resolved,’ he said. 

Sullenberger has said in the past that Boeing is more concerned with its product and selling it than with giving pilots enough information about how they function for them to be able to safely operate them. 

In 2009, he saved all 150 passengers and the crew on board his Airbus A320 after birds flew into one of the plane’s engines, causing it to fail, by making an emergency landing on the Hudson river. 

He was interrogated for the decision afterwards at a series of hearings but has been universally deemed a hero ever since, with many crediting his quick-thinking for saving everyone’s lives. 

Others at the panel on Wednesday testified about how while US pilots were given strong training from both the airlines they worked for and the military, others are not given the same tools to handle emergencies. 

When lawmakers suggested that it was unfair for pilots to be blamed for software failure, Sully argued back that it was not whether or not the pilot was to blame that was the issue, it was the lack of training and information they received which could cause further tragedies if the industry is not more heavily regulated. 

‘Asking whether this was pilot error or design error doesn’t really address the right question. 

‘Human performance is a variable and it’s situation dependent,’ he said.

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