The US Air Force chief of staff has ordered a review of training procedures for military pilots of large cargo and transport planes, including Air Force One, in the wake of the Ethiopian airlines crash earlier this month.
General David Goldfein exclusively told CNN he wants to make certain military pilots are fully trained to handle emergency procedures and ensure they know how and when to turn off automated pilot systems if they encounter problems. The Air Force acknowledges this is a precautionary review.
Investigators that are probing the Lion Air crash that occurred last October as well as the recent Ethiopian airlines crash, are looking at systems developed specifically for the 737 MAX planes, which the Air Force does not operate.
Air Force officials say they don’t believe any of their aircraft have had problems similar to those suffered on the Boeing 737 Max 8, which have been grounded worldwide following the Ethiopian airlines crash. One official noted Air Force automated pilot systems are different to those on the Boeing plane that has now suffered two crashes.
But questions have been raised about whether commercial pilots had proper training on the Boeing 737 Max 8 and knew how to cope if their automated systems failed. Those concerns prompted the order to make sure Air Force crews receive adequate and updated training, he said.
Goldfein’s order initially covers aircraft such as the C-17 and KC-46, both manufactured by Boeing. There is no indication of problems with either model, officials said. The Air Force also flies variants of the 737, and several military versions of the 747 including the VC-25A, more commonly referred to as Air Force One.
Training for crews of all those planes including Air Force One will be reviewed.
One reason training procedures for large transport and cargo planes are being reviewed is crews aboard those planes are more likely to engage autopilot systems on long haul flights. In combat zones, pilots of fighters and bombers retain full control in their cockpits.
Because Air Force One flight practices are classified, it’s not clear if its crews use autopilot on long haul flights, but as Air Force personnel they are required to be properly trained on all systems.
Goldfein has also ordered the US Air Force Safety Center to analyze previous Air Force mishaps involving autopilot anomalies to see if there is any data that would help military and commercial aviation regulators understand if there are other problems. He has also offered the Federal Aviation Administration any assistance it needs from Air Force safety experts.