A former Chief Technical Pilot for Boeing has been charged with fraud over allegations that he deliberately deceived the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during its evaluation of the 737MAX aircraft.
Prosecutors allege that Mark A. Forkner, 49, provided false and inaccurate information about new flight controls that Boeing had developed for the 737MAX called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).
The MCAS system was blamed for two fatal crashes involving the 737MAX with a total loss of life of all 346 passengers and crew aboard the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights. The 737MAX was grounded for 20-months following the accidents as regulators worked with Boeing to fix the flawed MCAS system.
“Forkner allegedly abused his position of trust by intentionally withholding critical information about MCAS during the FAA evaluation and certification of the 737 MAX and from Boeing’s U.S.‑based airline customers,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“In doing so, he deprived airlines and pilots from knowing crucial information about an important part of the airplane’s flight controls.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Chad E. Meacham for the Northern District of Texas claims Forkner was driven by a desire to save Boeing money by downplaying MCAS in an effort to get the 737MAX approved quickly and with as little review as possible.
“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.” Meacham commented.
“The Department of Justice will not tolerate fraud – especially in industries where the stakes are so high.”
Boeing started developing and marketing its 737MAX variant in June 2011 but in late 2016, Forkner is said to have discovered information about an important change that had been made to MCAS.
The changes could have had an impact on a review being carried out by the FAA’s Aircraft Evaluation Group who were responsible for deciding how much additional training pilots needed to fly the MAX variant.
Forkner is accused of intentionally withholding the information he had discovered from the FAA review board. In turn, the FAA deleted any reference to MCAS from its review meaning that the system wasn’t mentioned in any pilot manuals or training materials.
It was only after the October 29, 2018, crash of Lion Air flight 610 that the FAA became aware of the MCAS changes that Forkner had allegedly deliberately withheld. The FAA was still reviewing the implications of this information when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 30 crashed on March 10, 2019.
Forkner is due to appear in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas on Friday charged with four counts of wire fraud and two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.