Story at a glance
- The Justice Department announced Mark A. Forkner, 49, has been charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and four counts of wire fraud.
- Authorities claim Forkner provided false, inaccurate and incomplete information to regulators regarding flight controls for the 737 Max.
- The malfunction of those controls resulted in two crashes that killed hundreds.
A former chief test pilot for Boeing has been indicted for fraud for allegedly deceiving the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) while the agency was first certifying the 737 Max jet, a model of plane involved in two deadly crashes.
The Justice Department announced Mark A. Forkner, 49, has been charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and four counts of wire fraud. He faces 20 years in prison on each count of wire fraud.
Authorities claim Forkner provided false, inaccurate and incomplete information to regulators regarding flight controls for the 737 Max called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), a system tied to both the 2018 and 2019 crashes that killed a total of 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Forkner led the 737 Max flight technical team and was responsible for providing regulators with accurate information about differences between the model and other aircraft.
Prosecutors said because of the withholding of information, a key document published by the FAA’s Aircraft Evaluation Group lacked any reference to the system, resulting in airplane manuals and pilot-training materials lacking any reference to the software.
The MCAS software feature was designed to automatically push the airplane’s nose down in certain situations. In both crashes, a faulty sensor caused the software to misfire and pilots were left without key information regarding MCAS to mitigate the issue that led to the crashes.
“In an attempt to save Boeing money, Forkner allegedly withheld critical information from regulators,” Chad Meacham, acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said in a statement.
“His callous choice to mislead the FAA hampered the agency’s ability to protect the flying public and left pilots in the lurch, lacking information about certain 737 MAX flight controls,” he said.
Boeing earlier this year was charged with conspiracy over the incident and paid more than $2.5 billion in fines and compensation after reaching a settlement with the Justice Department.
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