Boeing is in talks with a number of airlines over funding simulator training for the grounded 737 MAX once it’s cleared again to fly, according to Bloomberg. The newswire reported that Boeing has already agreed to fund the entire cost for SpiceJet's simulator training on the MAX, with FlyDubai and Ryanair also in discussions with the company. These 3 airlines alone represent up to 600 MAX orders. A Boeing spokesperson told Bloomberg that negotiations were being done on an airline-by-airline basis, as the air manufacturer looks at ways to ease carriers whose maintenance and fuel costs have been significantly increased by the one year grounding of the MAX. Despite Boeing predicting a mid-year return to flight for the MAX, the FAA has refused to set-out targets and last month, the Chicago-based firm was forced to set aside $2.6 billion specifically to fund simulator training after the US regulator said this would be mandatory as part of the recertification process. With just 36 simulators for Boeing 737 MAX training available today globally, and thousands of pilots across the world who need to use them, the devices are in hot demand among airlines.
American Airlines told Bloomberg it expects to be reimbursed by Boeing for grounding costs, including simulator sessions. Southwest Airlines, the biggest MAX customer, is preparing for several scenarios on pilot training as it awaits the FAA decision, with United Airlines being in a similar situation.
Boeing has already booked massive expenses related to the 737 MAX crisis. In January, the company announced an additional $9.2 billion in charges for potential concessions to Boeing 737 Max customers, costs to produce 737 aircraft, and $4 billion in "abnormal production costs," assuming a gradual resumption of production at low rates. Combined with charges booked last year, 737 MAX-related costs top $18 billion.
The FAA is expected to make simulator training mandatory before the Boeing 737 MAX can return, which Boeing agrees would be beneficial to pilots. Previously, Boeing had said it built the 737 MAX in line with older 737 jets so pilots trained on prior models of the 737 could fly the new MAX with no new expensive simulator training. But last month, Boeing reversed this stand and said that it would recommend to the FAA that all 737 MAX pilots undergo simulator training, which would add months to the plane's return to service.
The pilot training is likely to include the MAX's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, known as MCAS. MCAS has been blamed for the two fatal flights of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, killing a combined total of 346 people.