53 minutes. That was the length of time approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) for pilot training on the upgraded Boeing 737 Max 8 jet that crashed Sunday in Ethiopia killing all aboard, according to a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association.
Nor was the 53 minutes for face to face training. It was “computer assisted” over a laptop with slides and imagery. Some of the pilots felt shortchanged.
Reports in The New York Times suggest that Boeing was able to convince the FAA that the 737 pilots would not have to undergo costly retraining because the upgraded plane was enough like the older model.
This worried the pilots group. The tragedy of Lion Air, the Ethiopia predecessor, was a focus of intense debate in aviation circles because of the determination by Boeing and the FAA that pilots did not need to be informed about a change introduced to the 737’s flight control system for the MAX.
Two U.S. pilots’ unions said the potential risks of a safety feature on Boeing Co.’s 737 Max aircraft that had been linked to a deadly crash in Indonesia weren’t sufficiently spelled out in their manuals or training.
The Lion Air crash took the lives of 189 people. The cause of the disaster is still under investigation.
Meanwhile, relatives, co-workers and friends of the Ethiopian Air victims remain stunned at the untimely loss of over 149 passengers and eight crew members. Flight 302, known as the “U.N. shuttle” to some, was carrying at least 32 Kenyans, 8 Canadians, nine each from Ethiopian and France, eight each from the U.S., China and Italy, seven from Britain.
Some were employed at the U.N.’s World Food Program, six were from the U.N. office in Nairobi, and two each for its Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and the International Telecommunications Union.
The Food and Agriculture Organization, International Organization for Migration in South Sudan, World Bank and the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) each lost one staff member. Six staff from the UN Office in Nairobi (UNON) were also tragically killed.
Among the private citizens lost in the crash was Pius Adesanmi, professor and news columnist, “a rare being, ebullient, with a razor-sharp mind,” wrote Nigerian author O.C. Osundu. “He was what the Yoruba call an Omoluabi yet when it came to polemics he could easily morph into a jaguda… good night my brother…we both came a long way. Nigeria has lost one of those who loved her most.”
The airline identified the pilot as Yared Getachew and the first officer as Ahmednur Mohammed. Mr. Getachew had more than 8,000 flight hours. He was a “confident captain” according to his family.
The flight was carrying a high number of UN workers because it was the day before a session of the UN Environment Assembly.
Professor Adesanmi, before Sunday’s Flight, posted an eerily prescient photo of himself holding his Canadian passport, along with the text of Psalm 139.9-10.
“If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,” it read, “even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”