The hero "Miracle on the Hudson" pilot who a decade ago shot to fame when he was able to safely land US Airways Flight 1549 following a bird strike on the Hudson River discussed the recent Ethiopian Airlines crash and how pilots need experience before being entrusted to master an aircraft.
Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III, 68, wrote on his Facebook page that the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy and October's Lion Air crash both involved a Boeing 737-8 MAX and changes need to be done to that model.
“It has been obvious since the Lion Air crash that a redesign of the 737 MAX 8 has been urgently needed, yet has still not been done, and the announced proposed fixes do not go far enough,” Sullenberger wrote.
On Sunday, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed, killing all 157 on board, including some Americans. In October, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in the Java Sea shortly after takeoff from the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.
This week, President Trump announced the U.S. issued an emergency order grounding all Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft “effective immediately” in wake of the Ethiopian Airlines crash. Many other nations, like China and the U.K, have barred the Boeing 737 MAX 8 from its airspace.
Sullenberger said he believed the Ethiopian Airlines crew did everything they could to prevent the accident. The retired pilot pointed out that the first officer on the doomed flight had insufficient hours of flight experience.
“It has been reported that the first officer on that flight had only 200 hours of flight experience, a small fraction of the minimum in the U.S., and an absurdly low amount for someone in the cockpit of a jet airliner,” he wrote.
“We do not yet know what challenges the pilots faced or what they were able to do, but everyone who is entrusted with the lives of passengers and crew by being in a pilot seat of an airliner must be armed with the knowledge, skill, experience, and judgment to be able to handle the unexpected and be the absolute master of the aircraft and all its systems, and of the situation,” Sullenberger continued.
The captain pointed out that “someone with only 200 hours” may not know what to do in an extreme emergency.
“Someone with that low amount of time would have only flown in a closely supervised, sterile training environment, not the challenging and often ambiguous real world of operational flying, would likely never have experienced a serious aircraft malfunction, would have seen only one cycle of the seasons of the year as a pilot, one spring with gusty crosswinds, one summer of thunderstorms,” he wrote.
Sullenberger concluded that airlines “have a corporate obligation not to put pilots in that position of great responsibility before they are able to be fully ready.” The pilot said pilot experience should be a “top priority at every airline” in wake of the recent tragedy.
Fox News’ Travis Fedschun and the Associated Press contributed to this report.