Captain Sully: Boeing Max pilots need 'muscle memory' before flying

Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger is urging federal regulators to require new simulator training for pilots before Boeing’s Max fleet can return to flight.

The Chicago-based manufacturer has faced criticism for failing to inform the plane operators that the Max, the most recent update to the wildly popular 737 jet, included a new autopilot safety system, referred to as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

"Boeing did not disclose the existence of MCAS to the pilot community around the world," Captain Dan Carey, president of the Allied Pilots Association (APA), told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday. "Robust training was not required."

The APA represents 15,000 pilots employed by American Airlines, which is one of the top domestic carriers that fly the Max. 

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The Federal Aviation Administration is still probing the two recent fatal crashes involving the fleet and determining what, if any, additional pilot training will be necessary.

But Sullenberger, who famously landed a US Airways flight in New York City’s Hudson River after both engines failed, said pilots need to "develop muscle memory of their experience so that it will be immediately accessible in the future."

"It’s critical that we address all the issues. It’s critical that pilots, as soon as possible, experience ... all the effects of the MCAS system and all the other things that [they] likely have not been trained at all on since initial qualification of the airplane," he said at the hearing. 

Sullenberger called for training in a full-motion simulator, which provides the most technical training including accurate sounds and visuals, as opposed to the more basic part-task trainer that includes no aerodynamic simulation.  

He also called for additional funding for the FAA to allow the agency to "fulfill its responsibilities" and provide "those who oversee certification with the subject matter expertise to do their job."


In a statement, the FAA said multiple independent reviews of the Max certification are underway and the agency expects "some of those will include recommendations about funding."

"We all share the same commitment to aviation safety and are continuously seeking ways to improve upon our already unprecedented safety record," a spokesman said.