Boeing executives sat with pilots last November in the low-lying brick headquarters of the Allied Pilots Association in Fort Worth.
The tensions were high. One of the new Boeing jets, celebrated by the firm as an even more reliable version of Boeing's rugged 737, crashed into the ocean just before launching off Indonesia, killing all 189 people aboard Lion Air's flight.
Following the crash, Boeing announced in a bulletin that this aircraft, known as the 737 Max 8, was equipped with a new type of software as part of the aircraft's automated capabilities. Some pilots were furious that they did not hear of the new software when the plane was unveiled.
Dennis Tajer, a 737 captain who attended the meeting with Boeing executives, recalled, "They said, 'We did not pick it up because a lot of people are flying here and we do not want to flood you with information & # 39; # 39;
"I'm sure I said," Well, that's unacceptable, "said Tajer, a chairman of the Association of American Airlines pilots.
A Boeing spokesman said the company denies that some of its executives made that statement.
On Wednesday, regulators ruled that the 737 Max 8 and a similar aircraft, the 737 Max 9, landed in Ethiopia on Sunday after another crash on that occasion. Many other countries had already acted.
In the statements of the week Boeing said that safety has top priority. However, it also announced that it would take several steps to make the aircraft "even safer", including updating the flight control software and displaying pilots, operator's manuals and crew training. The company said these changes would be implemented in the coming weeks.
The announcement came after years in which Boeing had preferred the new aircraft as a "seamless" transition from its predecessor. A conversion in which the carriers would not have to invest in extensive retraining.
It also reveals concerns from pilots and other groups as to whether Boeing has moved fast enough to tackle potential problems after the Lion Air crash.
Congress, regulators and shareholders of the company are now reviewing the decisions.
On Wednesday, MP Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), Chairman of the House's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he would hold hearings to investigate the US Aviation Authority's Aviation Authority's approval procedure.
DeFazio cited a concern that has particularly alarmed the pilots, the introduction of software that was announced in the after the crash of Lion Air sent bulletin.
Software called the maneuvering line extension (MCAS) system may override pre-tax inputs in some rare but dangerous situations if it is not off. This can interfere with the pilots' many years of training in which the nose of an aircraft is raised by pulling the control yoke, causing the aircraft to climb. When a pilot attempts to maneuver an aircraft, the automated system may interfere with the pilot's input.
"I will investigate how they came to the conclusion that retraining was not necessary, and then of course we want to investigate how foreign countries certify and re-train their pilots," said DeFazio.
"Nothing on the MCAS"
Following the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines on Sunday, Boeing said he would update the flight control software, provide more training, "fix" external sensors that measure the direction of an airplane, and make changes to the activation of MCAS.
Two pilots who participated in a meeting with Boeing in November following the crash of Lion Air said the pilots had suggested that the company take these measures at that time.
"Whatever training level you have chosen [before the Lion Air crash]"It has led to an iPad course I have taken less than an hour," said Tajer, the American Airlines pilot. "Many pilots here at American have made this course."
However, he said the course did not cover the new MCAS system. "There was nothing on the MCAS because even Americans did not know about it, it was all about the display scenes and how the engines are a bit different," he said.
Boeing did not comment on the concerns of the pilots.
The same week Boeing's senior executives met with pilots in Fort Worth. They also asked Southwest Airlines pilots – who also own 737 Max aircraft – to meet them. They hurriedly organized a conference room at Reno Airport on Thanksgiving Sunday, said Jon Weaks, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association.
"At this meeting, they told us that a software update is likely to be forthcoming in the near future," Weaks said.
In the following two months, however, no update.
Boeing did not comment on the meeting. In a statement earlier this week, Boeing said he had been working on the software enhancements for the 737 Max in the last few months after the Lion Air Flight 610 crashed.
The company said it had worked closely with the FAA on the software update and asked for feedback from airlines operating the aircraft.
Pilots reported concerns
Concerns over meetings with Boeing executives were not the only indication that pilots had concerns about the aircraft. A nationwide air traffic control reporting system contains about a dozen reports from pilots who comment on systems that limited their control of the 737 Max.
According to an analysis by the Washington Post Aviation Safety Reporting System, nearly two-thirds of the complaints revealed alleged aircraft defects or shortcomings and ambiguities in the classroom. The Dallas Morning News first reported the complaints of the pilots.
"I think it is undeniable that a manufacturer, the FAA and airlines fly pilots without proper training or even provide available resources and documentation to understand the highly complex systems that distinguish this aircraft from previous models. " Pilot wrote in November. "The fact that this plane requires such a jury is a red flag. Now we know that the systems used are susceptible to error – even if the pilots are not sure which systems are involved, what redundancies exist and what failure modes exist. "
The pilots were confused about the different characteristics of the aircraft.
"I've been thinking of my automation settings and the flight profile, but I can not imagine why the plane would roll so aggressively," a pilot wrote.
"How can a captain not know what a switch means during a preflight setup?" Asked another. "Bad training and even worse documentation; this is like."
The FAA rejected the idea that these pilot complaints could have helped identify problems, saying that they did not involve the MCAS system, which was at the center of the pilots' concerns.
"Some of the reports refer to possible problems with the autopilot / autothrottle, a system separate from MCAS, and / or acknowledge that the problems may have been due to a pilot error," a statement said.
Boeing declined to comment on the system. Southwest, using the 737 Max aircraft, said it had received no reports of problems with the MCAS system. American Airlines claimed to have reviewed the data for more than 14,000 flights since the Lion Air crash in Indonesia and found "no single anomaly related to the MCAS"
In its order to bring down the planes on Wednesday, the FAA announced that it had received information from the wreckage of the Ethiopian Airlines about the configuration of the aircraft shortly after takeoff, along with the newly refined data from the satellite tracking of the aircraft Trajectory of the aircraft have some similarities "Between what happened with this flight, and the Lion Air flight in Indonesia.
Boeing is trying to maintain its reputation for safe and profitable aircraft. Chief Executive Officer Dennis A. Muilenburg called President Trump on Tuesday, said the White House to vouch for the safety of the aircraft.
On Wednesday, the company issued a statement saying "out of caution and to ensure the safety of passengers," it agreed with the FAA's decision to bring the planes down.
"Boeing continues to have complete confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX," the company said.
Boeing designed the 737 Max for up to 3,850 miles and became an important tool for the company's global ambitions.
The Max uses engines that are both larger and more economical, and the new engines have been moved slightly forward compared to the previous models on the wings. To compensate for the repositioning, Boeing added MCAS to replicate the ride characteristics of earlier models.
According to a preliminary report, the 737 Max seemed to be up and down repeatedly in the Lion Air crash. Analysts said this indicated that the MCAS system was redirecting the aircraft when it was in an upside down position with its nose down.
At a CNBC appearance in December, Muilenburg was asked if the company was doing enough to ensure that the pilots were properly trained after the crash in October.
Muilenburg said the company's software bulletin helped "introduce pilots and airlines to these existing practices," and that Boeing "would take a look to ensure that all appropriate training is in place and communicating with our customers is available . "
"It's very, very important to us, but I want to say that the Max 737 is safe," he said.
Muilenburg's comments came about a week after the meetings in Texas and Reno when the pilots said they had heard similar promises.
Tajer sat at extendable tables in leather armchairs and said some of the company's top engineers had apologized.
"We said," Shame on you. "They said," I know. "
Ashley Halsey III and Luz Lazo contributed to this report.