Ex-Boeing 737 MAX chief technology pilot charged with fraud

WASHINGTON: A former technical director of Boeing was charged on Thursday (October 14) with deceiving federal regulators regarding the evaluation of the company’s 737 MAX plan to save the planner money, the US Department of Justice said.

Mark Forkner, 49, was charged with plotting to defraud Boeing’s US airline customers to get tens of millions of dollars for Boeing.

Boeing and a Forkner lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the indictment, Forkner provided the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with “materially false, inaccurate and incomplete information” about a new part of the Boeing 737 MAX flight controls, called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

According to court documents, Forkner had discovered information in 2016 about a major change made in MCAS that would prevent stalling, but deliberately chose not to share the details with the FAA.

As a result, the FAA did not include a reference to MCAS in a critical document or in turn in pilot training manuals.

MCAS was tied to two fatal crashes of 737 MAX over one five-month period which killed 346 people and led to the abolition of the aircraft’s 19-month grounding by the FAA in November 2020.

The FAA declined to comment.

In January, Boeing agreed to pay more than $ 2.5 billion in fines and compensation after reaching a deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice on the MAX crashes.

“In an attempt to save Boeing money, Forkner has allegedly withheld critical information from the regulators,” said acting. U.S. Attorney Chad E Meacham in North Texas. “His ugly choice to mislead the FAA hampered the agency’s ability to protect the flying public and left pilots stranded, without information on certain 737 MAX flight controls.”

According to documents published in early 2020, he boasted that he could cheat his FAA contacts to get certification for MCAS.

A November 2016 announcement from Forkner released in 2019 said he was working on “jedi-mind tricking regulators to accept the training I got received by the FAA”.

Forkner is charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate trade and four counts of wire fraud. He is also accused of conspiring against Boeing customers who bought 737 MAX aircraft by withholding critical information.

He is expected to make his first court appearance on Friday in Fort Worth, Texas.

If convicted, he could face up to 100 years in prison.

“Forkner is said to have withheld critical information from regulators,” said Texas Federal Prosecutor Chad Meacham.

“The Ministry of Justice will not tolerate fraud – especially not in industries where efforts are so high.”

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