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Why The Allied Pilots Association Still Has Confidence In Boeing's 737 Max 8 Jets


Now we're going to bring in Captain Dennis Tajer. He's a pilot for American Airlines and a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association. That's the union that represents American's pilots. Welcome to the program.

DENNIS TAJER: Thank you, pleasure to be here.

CORNISH: So up until this afternoon, your organization was supporting the FAA's decision to let the planes continue to fly. Now that the FAA has grounded these planes, what do you make of this order?

TAJER: Well, we understand the abundance of caution they're taking. And this new information that they have, we're not privy to, but we understand it. And we stand by our knowledge training that we received after the Lion Air tragedy about the system that was suspected to have been fed bad data and reacted such that the pilot struggled with that aircraft until its demise. So we had all the training. We have additional equipment on our aircraft that is unique to American. And our pilots felt confident because of our conversations with Boeing and our company support that we had the additional training after that tragedy.

This new one had put caution and concern in our pilots. But we had all the procedures so that if it was replicated, we would be able to safely bring the aircraft back. But now that's all going to be looked at in a different way. And we're glad to see that steps are being taken. We believe in the safety of the aircraft. But this is the prudent decision. And we're looking forward to seeing this mystery solved and getting back in the air safely.

CORNISH: I want to talk about the initial concerns because you did have concerns at one point about how Boeing treated - treating the - treated the concerns pilots had. And you talked about having outrage at one point.

TAJER: Absolutely. After Lion Air, it became this automated feature on the Max - unique to the Max - was discussed as a potential trigger of this sad event. And we had none of that information in our flight manuals. None whatsoever - no training, no awareness of it. And Boeing did tell us that they chose to not disclose that information. That did outrage us. It's unacceptable in a safety culture. They - that was quite public in the news. And Boeing came to us for meetings. And we had a lot of serious questions, including, as you saw a couple days ago, the FAA has announced that they will have software enhancements. And those were the exact enhancements that we were calling for, along with additional training, which we actually got from American Airlines immediately, which bolstered our confidence. And American actually has simulators coming inbound, as well, our pilots will start training on. So this was the foundation for our confidence.

The second tragedy that happened and the mystery behind it, as we needed more information, gather the facts, obviously, that decision was made by the regulators. And we stand by that and look forward to the path ahead...

CORNISH: What are...

TAJER: ...And getting the facts and...

CORNISH: I want to jump in here. What are your concerns about how Boeing has treated this process?

TAJER: Well, the process was treated after Lion Air was the...

CORNISH: Well, I mean now - right? - because for the last couple of...

TAJER: Oh, now?

CORNISH: ...Days, we've had many countries say, look; we don't want these planes in our airspace. And the FAA and Boeing were saying, look; it's still safe to fly.

TAJER: Well, thank you. We were in agreement because we had all the information and training. And our pilots were aware of it. And Boeing had us, along with the FAA and our company, all four stakeholders were at the table, unlike it was before Lion Air. So the way this was handled was much different and information stream was coming in quickly. Otherwise, we could not have bolstered our confidence after the second tragedy. So that made a difference. But it didn't change our independent view to protect our passengers if we had data or information that countered that. So we didn't have that at the time, so that's where we stood. And today, the decision was made, and we understand it. And we look forward to moving into a safer path.

CORNISH: Captain Dennis Tajer - he's the spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association. That's the labor union representing American Airlines' pilots. Thanks again.

TAJER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.