A grand jury in Texas indicted Mark A. Forkner as a fraudster. He was Boeing's former chief technical pilot who participated in the testing of its 737 Max. Because of his position within the company, he was responsible for coordinating with Federal Aviation Administration to determine what training is required to fly a specific plane. Indictment says he deceived the FAA's Aircraft Evaluation Group (FAA AEG), which evaluated and certified the 737 Max. You may recall that two 737 Max aircraft crashed within months of each another in 2018, and 2019, killing 346.
According to FAA, Forkner provided "materially false and inaccurate information" about a new component of the Boeing 737 MAX flight controls called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System. After an investigation, the AEG found that MCAS was activated during both crashes. This is a system that pushes the plane's nose down when necessary. Both Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610 crashed almost immediately after they took off.
According to the Department of Justice Forkner discovered a significant change to MCAS in November 2016. However, he allegedly withheld this information from the AEG. The FAA removed any reference to MCAS from the pilot training materials for 737 Max. In a statement, Chad E. Meacham, Acting US Attorney for the Northern District of Texas stated that the actions of the former chief pilot were financially motivated.
Forkner is accused of withholding crucial information from regulators in an effort to save Boeing money. Forkner's omission to inform the FAA of his alleged fraud hampered the agency's ability to protect the flying population and left pilots without information about certain 737 MAX flight control procedures. Fraud is not acceptable in any industry, especially when the stakes are high.
Boeing paid $2.5 billion earlier this year to settle a criminal charge that it had conspired with the FAA to defraud. Boeing also agreed to cooperate with the FAA's Fraud Section for any future and ongoing investigations. Forkner was charged with fraud involving parts of aircraft and four counts for wire fraud. Forkner is now facing a maximum sentence of 100 years imprisonment.