TEMPO.CO, Seattle - Boeing Co is planning an initial investment of around $1 billion into industry-wide pilot development as part of a long-term initiative to reduce risks like those faced by the crew in two 737 MAX crashes, people familiar with the matter said.
The embattled planemaker is trying to rebuild trust and cooperation with airlines, passengers and regulators around the world after the 737 MAX was grounded in March, following crashes in which a total of 346 people died.
Details of the company's "Global Aviation Safety" initiative remain under wraps due to delays in returning the 737 MAX to service, as attention focuses on changes to cockpit software that investigators say played a major part in the two crashes.
The planemaker will launch the pilot development project after regulators approve changes to Boeing 737 MAX software and training and the plane resumes flights, one of the people familiar with the matter said. The company currently expects that to happen in the United States by year-end.
The plane is likely to return to service in Europe during the first quarter of 2020, the head of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said earlier this week.
The pilot project spending budget, people familiar with it said, will be in addition to the more than $8 billion in costs from compensation to airlines for delayed aircraft deliveries and lower production tied to the Boeing 737 MAX grounding.
The training initiative is still being developed and will be rolled out over years, one of the people said. While costs are expected to rise over time, the effort may overlap with future aircraft programs.
"It will involve significant funds to raise standards around the world and requires Boeing putting its own money in," said another person familiar with the project.
Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg was accused by U.S. lawmakers in back-to-back hearings last week of placing profits over those safety standards, a charge Boeing denies.
Muilenburg said Boeing would help "build a talent pipeline" of pilots and invest heavily in the pilot-machine interface or fight deck for the next generation, but gave few details.
A Boeing spokesman declined additional comment.
Part of Boeing's investments will include improving aviation infrastructures, such as air traffic and flight simulation systems, a third person with knowledge of the plans said.
It is also considering whether to develop new training materials or methods for various career stages and fund training centers or recruitment efforts, the people said.
Boeing could also create a data-sharing network on aircraft design with global regulators, one of the people said, in a bid to improve outside knowledge of its aircraft technology and operations.
The head of the EASA told Reuters in a recent interview that it would demand more data when deciding whether to certify future jets.