DALLAS – A former Boeing pilot was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on charges of defrauding safety regulators about the 737 Max jet liner, which was later involved in two fatal crashes.
The indictment accuses Mark A. Forkner of providing incorrect and incomplete information to the Federal Aviation Administration about the automated flight control system that contributed to the crash, which killed 346 people.
The prosecution said the system was not mentioned in the pilot manual or training material due to Forkner’s alleged fraud.
Forkner’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Boeing declined to comment.
Forkner, 49, has been charged with two counts of fraud in international trade and four counts of wire fraud. Federal prosecutors said they are expected to make their first appearance in court in Fort Worth, Texas, on Friday. If convicted, he could face up to 100 years in prison.
The indictment alleges that he concealed information about a flight control system that accidentally turned on and pushed down the noses of Max jets that crashed in Indonesia in 2018 and Ethiopia in 2019. The pilots tried unsuccessfully to regain control, but both planes landed a few minutes after takeoff.
The Forkner Max program was Boeing’s chief technical pilot. Prosecutors said Forkner learned in 2016 of a significant change in the maneuvering characterization augmentation system flight control system, but withheld information from the FAA. This forced the agency to remove the MCAS reference from the technical report and as a result the pilot did not appear in the manual. Most pilots did not know about MCAS until after the first crash.
The prosecution suggested that Forkner reduced the power of the system to avoid the need for pilots to receive extensive and expensive training, which would increase airlines’ training costs. Congressional investigators have suggested that additional training could add up to 1 million to each aircraft.
“In an attempt to save Boeing’s money, Forkner allegedly withheld important information from regulators,” said Chad Macham, acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas. Its disgusting choice to mislead the FAA hampered the agency’s ability to protect flying public and left pilots, which lacked information on 737 Max flight control.
Forkner told another Boeing employee in 2016 that the MCAS flight simulator was “intense” and “running” while testing it, but did not tell the FAA.
“So I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly),” Forkner wrote in a message that went public in 2019.
Forkner, who lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, joined Southwest Airlines after leaving Boeing, but left the airline about a year ago.
The Justice Department has agreed to a 2.5 billion deal to end a Chicago-based Boeing company’s actions. The government agreed to drop the criminal conspiracy charge against Boeing three years later if the company meets the conditions for a January 2020 settlement. The settlement included a ڈالر 243.6 million fine, about 8 1.8 1.8 billion for the airlines that purchased the aircraft, and 500 500 million for a fund that would compensate the families of the dead passengers.