Boeing Co is hiring up to 160 pilots to be embedded at airlines in its latest bid to ensure its 737 MAX has a smooth comeback after a 20-month safety ban.
The new "Global Engagement Pilots" will act as instructors or cockpit observers on 35-day assignments at an equivalent annual salary that could reach $200,000, for a total potential cost of $32 million, one of the people said.
The unusual hiring spree is part of a Boeing campaign to protect the re-launch of its redesigned 737 MAX from operational glitches and rebuild trust following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed a total of 346 people.
The strategy also includes 24/7 surveillance of 737 MAX flights globally and talking points for flight attendants to reassure passengers who express concern.
"Duties include: consulting activities and assist in customer support, including flying opportunities," according to a summary seen by Reuters of job terms from a contracting firm carrying out the recruitment on behalf of Boeing.
Pilots must have 1,000 hours of instructor experience and "no incidents, accidents, losses or violations," and be licensed on the 737 and other Boeing jetliners, it said.
"We continue to work closely with global regulators and customers to safely return the 737-8 and 737-9 to service worldwide," a Boeing spokeswoman said.
Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have said the plane is among the world's safest after improvements to cockpit software and pilot training.
But a smooth return to service is seen as vital for Boeing, which faces costs of $20 billion over the grounding.
Boeing has already drawn up plans for a $1 billion initial investment in pilot recruitment, training, and developing a fight deck for the next generation of pilots.
But safety experts said its decision to recruit pilots directly is unusual and signals Boeing's wish to jumpstart the return to service and normalize the MAX as soon as possible.