A 737 Pilot’s Thoughts on the Boeing Aircraft


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I’ve been flying the 737-800 for just over 11 years and in that time I’ve logged over 6,000 pilot-in-command hours in the aircraft. Here’s my simple appraisal of the jet based on this firsthand experience: the design and engineering of the 737 is superior to every other airline jet I’ve also logged over a thousand pilot hours in, including the DC-9-80, DC-10, and F-100.

The 737-800 Next Gen and Max are safe, reliable, engineered and built to the highest standards in the commercial aircraft industry. I’d rather fly a Boeing jet than any other airliner flying today.

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I’m not alone in this thinking: the pilot’s union–my union–which represents the pilots of the world’s largest airline, issued a statement that says the Boeing 737 Max is safe to fly. The FAA has issued a similar statement. The FAA oversight of U.S. airline operations has resulted in an air travel system that is the safest in the world.

In my experience, the current media hysteria–especially on social media–is pointless and counterproductive.

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The social media hysteria over the 737-Max  is absurd.

The reality of the situation is this: both Boeing and Airbus have made advanced airliners affordable and available worldwide. The problem is, not all countries have the aviation oversight infrastructure to ensure the safety of flight operations, to include regulation, inspection, enforcement pertaining to maintenance, pilot standards, training standards and pilot experience.

Passengers in the far corners of the world see a shiny new Airbus or Boeing jet at their departure point and make assumptions about the above factors based on the modern appearance of the airliner–but often, the exact opposite is true: there is little or no aviation oversight, low pilot and maintenance experience levels, poor or no record keeping,  little inspection or enforcement, and generally a low-quality flight operation.

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Every US pilot of a 737 is trained to recognize and handle every abnormal situation that occurs in flight, which is a factor in every airliner flying, regardless of make or model. The flying public can be certain that their pilots in the United States, Canada, Europe, most of Asia and all Down Under airlines have the same training, experience and capabilities. Period.

The news hype–especially the screaming of digital media–is a tragic side effect unrelated to the facts of the recent airline accidents so widely reported. The reality is, above and beyond the chaotic noise of social media and and the reckless bandwagon pronouncements of those who’d promote themselves or an unfounded agenda: once the investigation is complete, we will have answers–not until.

Meanwhile, I will continue to fly the Boeing 737 Next Gen and Max based on my firsthand experience that assures me the aircraft is well-engineered, sturdy, reliable and most importantly, absolutely safe.

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55 Responses to “A 737 Pilot’s Thoughts on the Boeing Aircraft”

  1. Sharron Saidi Says:

    Thank you for your reassurance on this matter. News this morning reports that US pilots have anonymously written complaints on operational concerns of Max 8. What are your thoughts on that? Once again, your knowledge and opinion have made flying so much more bearable for me and I’m forever grateful for your words of wisdom.

    • We don’t anonymously write complaints. What you’re referring to is the ASRS program where pilots share information by name about anomalies, which the FAA and engineering staff analyze and share with all aircraft users and further, corrective action is taken.

  2. Thanks for sharing this Chris! Very much appreciated!

  3. Thanks Chris, you never disappoint. I came here (it’s been a while I must confess) to read your take on this situation. I trust your opinion based on years of reading your blogs, books.

    Luc

  4. I hear you and completely agree. However, some people do have a fear of flying. When you have the entire world stop flying the MAX and two planes have killed over 400 people it’s plays in your mind. I am sure MAX pilots would be very vocal if they felt the plane to be unsafe. We are heading none today.

    • When you say “the entire world,” you conveniently leave out the United States which actually has the largest and safest commercial aviation record in “the entire world.”

    • The “entire world?” Or “the entire world except for the country with the largest and safest airline system in the world?”

      • Blake Thompson Says:

        Looks like the “entire world” includes the U.S. as well.

      • Sure: bowing to illogical social media and news hysteria but for a short period after which the FAA will acknowledge what I said in the first place: thorough pilot training programs like the ones we already have in the US and the other nations I cited are all that’s required to fly the jet safely. Then, sadly for you, @the whole world” will resume flying the 737 Max.

  5. Thank you for your sober analysis, a rare one based on first-hand experience with this aircraft.

  6. Excellent thoughts on flying a B737….
    My own experience of 10.000+ hours of 737 flying is only on 300/400/700/800 and 900 models, not the Max, but basically I agree with your thoughts.
    It looks like the Lion Air crash was caused by a faulty AOA sensor that triggered an automatic nose down input.Perhaps the anti-stall software in the Max was not published in a very clear manner and might have contributed to the Lion Air crash. The automatic system can be switched off when following runaway trim procedure.
    Apparently the flight profile of Ethiopean was looking like Lion Air. A real answer can only be given after flight recorders are read.
    The good thing about these Boeing aircraft is that all automatic features can be switched off and the machine can be flown manually. A properly trained pilot, with sufficient technical knowledge and no hesitation to switch ‘OFF’ most automatic systems should be able to maintain control of it….

  7. In the Guardian newspaper today, we have: “It has emerged that pilots on at least two US flights last year filed safety concerns about the aircraft after its nose tilted down suddenly when they engaged the autopilot.

    The pilots’ reports were filed in a database compiled by Nasa that does not reveal the airlines or locations.

    On one flight, the co-pilot said the nose pitched downward and the plane began descending at 1,200 to 1,500ft a minute before the captain disconnected the autopilot.

    Another pilot complained that Boeing had not explained changes to the plane’s automatic functions, describing the flight manual as “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient”.

    Any comments on this, please?

    • I answered this above. We don’t “complain” on the ASRS you refer to—we share info about anomalies. The few you refer to obviously caused no incident, right?

  8. Bob Terbet Says:

    Chris What Do believe caused the two crashes? Seems changing from the auto system to manual control is more complicated that just clicking an autopilot disconnect button. It should be that simple.

  9. Marty U. Says:

    Finally, a voice of sanity above a chorus of instant gratification-fueled self-aggrandizers, media blowhards and legislative and regulatory wimps.

    Thank you.

  10. Peri Duncan Says:

    Thank you. People keep asking what I think. I’m sharing what you think, too.

  11. Sharon A Says:

    Blessings on your head. As usual, a very well written post. Earlier today we learned that the Max aircraft have been grounded world-wide, and apparently with Boeing’s support. I hope that this anomaly can be sorted out and resolved in due time – not a rush job.
    My husband and I both retired from Boeing – he a senior design engineer and I was a design drafter. Both of us have been thru the ups and downs of the aerospace industry and have seen how Boeing does perform due diligence on problems. I expect no less this time.

  12. Thank you for nice post from Japan!
    I’d like to translate this post into my Japanese site, if you can.

  13. So you are saying that leaving the info out of the manual about what may have contributed to these last two tragic flights was not a major mistake? And the fact that that system is an after the fact bandaid being the probable reason it didn’t make it into the manual before publication isn’t an issue?

    • I didn’t say any of that, and you’re wrong: Boeing didn’t leave it out because the manual was already published (that’s ridiculous—it’s a digital document) but because the procedure is the same for any uncommanded nose down trim.

  14. Matt Nicholson Says:

    Another outstanding piece, Mr. Manno. Logical, evidence- and experience-based arguments instead of the emotion-based fear-mongering seen from the MSM & twitter idiots. Why people are willing to trust a new anchor who has never set foot in the cockpit of a Cessna, let alone one of the world’s most advanced jet aircraft, over a professional aviator with thousands of hours of experience in the air-frame in question blows my mind.

  15. Bill Brandt Says:

    I think your comments on third world airlines are spot-on. We were talking about this today – the FO of the latest had 200 hours and the 28 year old PIC had 8,000 hours?

    As someone said, “Something hinky there”.

  16. Bill Brandt Says:

    Then there was the 777 pilot of that Korean airline who “landed” the perfectly good plane short of the runway because outside of automation he was a bit lost…

    • There’s no going back with automation, only forward with crew awareness and proper action.

      • David Adams Says:

        100% Agree! Yet does “going forward” exist in regards to aircraft design? Is it plausible the MAX incarnation moved beyond the capability of a circa ’67 design & Boeing implemented “tech” to override too much design evolution (engine placement/pylons/slightly taller landing gear/ increased weight)? Statistically, the MAX is is approx 2yrs old & the least safe 737 “generation” manufactured. Is it not disconcerting that Lion/Ethiopian—-yes it’s very early—mirror each other? Great Blog Chris!

      • I tend to think along those lines too—the rush to match the Airbus Neo made redesign timeline untenable. Maybe a reengined and updated the 757 would have been a better choice …

  17. Thank You for your professional comments. The fact Boeing did not make a bigger point in the 737 Max operating manual on the addition of MCAS feature which some pilots have confirmed they were not aware of nor how to turn it off is inexcusable. The Fake News Media is all about selling commercial$. That aside Boeing Builds Aerodynamic Perfection.

  18. HI Chris,

    >>> “there is little or no aviation oversight, low pilot and maintenance experience levels, poor or no record keeping, little inspection or enforcement, and generally a low-quality flight operation.”

    While no doubt true–to varying degrees–in the developing world, when I travel locally outside of developed countries, I will always fly if I have the option. Even if flying isn’t as nearly perfectly safe as it is in the U.S., Europe, et al., it’s orders of magnitude safer than the local roads or railroads.

  19. Barry W Wilson Says:

    Fully agree

  20. Thanks for this post, nice to see a point of view from somebody who flies it. All Max pilots I know love the aircraft.

  21. Jim Cole Says:

    I have read the comments and we all have theory’s , as Chris has said once the information is revealed from the black box any apparent problem in the aircraft’s systems will come to light if any. Chris is 100% correct about third world aircraft operations namely training, maintenance, records etc. Training is the big question and today because of the shortage of Pilots more and more are getting into the cockpit with fewer hours. However in USA, Canada etc they are again trained by the company who hired them and fly with a seasoned Captain. I fly light aircraft where we all started hands on, no auto pilots, dealing with cross winds, light turbulence and sometimes I wonder with these new sophisticated airliners today if there is too much “auto pilot”. I know Pilots here in Canada and USA have to do recurring simulator training for emergency procedures and abnormal situations however there is an old saying don’t let an airline Pilot fly your 172 until he gets a checkout. Now I’m not putting down the airline Pilots who are professionals and there is no way I could do what they do but what I’m talking about is back to the basics hands on flying where you feel the aircraft and as my old instructor said when I was learning “you make the airplane do what you want it to do, don’t let it do what it wants to do”. So in the critical stages of the flight such as take off, climb out , descending and landing how many airline pilots are relining on the auto pilot to do the flying and that would be my concern.

  22. Art Persky Says:

    I have been flying in third world countries since the 60`s training as stated is very much lacking and ability, also I made this statement after the first max accident { not an accident amenability due to happen } training is the least problem ability is the largest !!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Erik Scheller Says:

    After reading several times, this article couldn’t have been better written if done by Boeing’s PR Dept.

    I’d like to think you’re right, but it’s way too early for chest thumping that we’re flying the best designed, best built, are the best trained, and the best maintained…

    • That’s where you’re wrong: it’s my informed opinion, based on firsthand experience, published on my blog. You can put whatever you want on YOUR blog, based on YOUR firsthand experience—if you have any.

  24. Please read this article. Does it concern you that the MCAS can move the stabilizer 2.5 units each time it is reset?

  25. Great article. I echo your thoughts exactly.

  26. Todd Lester Says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. As an individual with 4200 hrs of aviation, a degree in Aviation Safety, and working in Cameroon for years, let’s wait for the report. Also understand, as the author pointed out, proper aviation SOP’s are not followed or are non existant in many countries. Also, money is siphoned from these state owned airlines exasperating the problems.

  27. He’s flown 3 types, the newest being a plane based on a 1967 design, and he’s an expert on every other type out there?
    Whatever, dude.
    The only pilots who say that the 737 is the best airplane ever, never flew anything else. Even the 767 is a far better airplane to fly.

  28. Lionel Lee Hector Says:

    As an ATP with 12000 hours, I fully concur with the author of this article.’

  29. Ted Wexler Says:

    The only thing you haven’t considered is the startle factor at low altitude which could lead to a certain degree of panic in realizing the plane seems to be flying you rather than you the plane. Also having only one AoA sensor is a ridiculously bad design.

    • If a pilot is unable to recognize a malfunction due to the “startle factor,” that pilot should never get anywhere close to takeoff roll and a V1 abort decision much less a stab trim abnormal procedure.

  30. I agree with your assessment, Chris! As an author of a Boeing 737-800 and 737-MAX study guide used by many professional airline pilots, I concur that the 737 series has an incredible safety record. While a temporary grounding to get all the facts may be appropriate, hopefully this will be resolved and airplanes will be back flying shortly.

    Full disclosure: I have flown -800 but not the MAX version, though I am fully current on the documentation regarding that model.

  31. I agree with your assessment, Chris! As an author of a Boeing 737-800 and 737-MAX study guide used by many professional airline pilots, I concur that the 737 series has an incredible safety record. While a temporary grounding to get all the facts may be appropriate, hopefully this will be resolved and airplanes will be back flying shortly.

    Full disclosure: I have flown -800 but not the MAX version, though I am fully current on the documentation regarding that model.

    Resubmitted due to a spelling error in the name of the company…

  32. Chris: I’m just a generic not-frequent-flyer passenger, but I had already tentatively reached the same conclusion as yours based on reading between the lines on some news reports and then, finally, on Airbus’s recent announcement about (in effect) enforcing pilot training standards across all segments of their user base. (It’s not hard to see what they’re thinking.) The degree to which our news media is unwilling to say, “Third world pilots and training are often deficient,” shocks me. I don’t know why they won’t shoot straight on this issue, but I most certainly can hazard a guess.

    Anyway, thanks for the reassuring confirmation. A word from someone like you, who actually knows what he’s talking about, is worth 1,000 words from anyone else.

  33. Are you retracting this in light of all the data that contradicts most of what you stated here?

    • Not retracting anything, and what you call “the data” is still in process. Either way, none of your third hand speculative “data” contradicts my firsthand experience.

  34. David Pflieger Says:

    Thanks for sharing. It’s a well thought out explanation that can hopefully calm down some of the hysteria.

  35. A lot of information has been found and shared. so some opinions can now be given regarding Ethiopean crash:
    – Boeing has been doing some funny things, not telling anybody about MCAS, giving MCAS a lot of authority and hanging it at only one AOA sensor.
    – Ethiopean crew has been screwing up badly, after stick shaker upon take-off no proper ‘what info is correct’ procedure, after switching off trim cut=out switches apparently later switching them on again and nobody ever thottled back resulting in speed of 350+ knots….
    – Crew should have been aware of MCAS problem and how that would be presented and the proper action. They did a bit and forgot about a lot….
    Of course, afterwards, behind a computer and after some thinking many problems can be solved properly while the crew at the real event would have soem other pressures,
    But this looks like a survivable incident, without very much effort….

    • I agree. I’m really unsure why Boeing would allow the MCAS to respond based on only one AOA input—it would seem like a comparator is vital and that in the case of a disagreement between AOA input, the system would annuncite the failure and deactivate. I also don’t like the fact that they didn’t tell any of the users worldwide about MCAS. Still, the jet was flyable, as the Lion Air crew on the flight before the mishap flight proved.

  36. It’s a few months later now and has your opinion changed since you wrote this post? The pilot union seems unhappy with how Boeing and the FAA withheld information and left the pilots out of the loop. What are your thoughts now?

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