2 of 6 Boeing Max test frauds count against abandoned pilot

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A judge has dismissed two of six counts of fraud against a former Boeing pilot involved in evaluating the troubled Boeing 737 Max jetliner.

A Fort Worth federal judge on Tuesday dismissed, on technical grounds, charges accusing Mark A. Forkner of making and using “materially false handwriting … relating to an aircraft part,” contrary to law federal.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, however, denied Forker’s lawyers’ request to dismiss four other wire frauds for failing to report cases.

Fork, who pleaded not guilty to all chargesis to be tried on March 7.

A the federal indictment charges Forkner, 50, of misleading regulators over a critical system that played a role in two Boeing 737 Max plane crashes that killed 346 people.

Prosecutors said that due to Forkner’s alleged deception, flight manuals and training materials did not mention the system due to Forkner’s alleged deception.

The flight control system in question erroneously activated and dented the nose of Max jets that crashed in 2018 in Indonesia and 2019 in Ethiopia. The pilots tried unsuccessfully to regain control, but both planes nosed over minutes after takeoff.

Forkner was Boeing’s chief technical pilot on the Max program. Prosecutors said Forkner learned of a significant change in the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System flight control system in 2016, but hid the information from the FAA. This led the agency to remove the reference to MCAS from a technical report and, in turn, it did not appear in pilots’ manuals. Most pilots didn’t know about MCAS until after the first crash.

Prosecutors suggested Forkner underplayed the power of the system to avoid requiring pilots to undergo extensive and costly training, which would increase training costs for airlines. Congressional investigators have suggested that additional training would have added $1 million to the price of each plane.

Forkner told another Boeing employee in 2016 that MCAS was “blatant” and “creepy” when he tested it in a flight simulator, but he didn’t tell the FAA.

“So I basically lied to regulators (unknowingly),” Forkner wrote in a post that went public in 2019.

Forkner, who lives in a suburb of Fort Worth, joined Southwest Airlines after leaving Boeing but left the airline about a year ago.

Chicago-based Boeing has agreed to a $2.5 billion settlement to end a Justice Department investigation into the company’s actions. The government has agreed to drop a criminal conspiracy charge against Boeing after three years if the company meets the terms of the January 2020 settlement. The settlement included a $243.6 million fine, nearly $1.8 billion for the airlines that bought the plane and $500 million for a fund to compensate the families of slain passengers.

Dozens of passenger families are suing Boeing in federal court in Chicago.

Accident investigations highlighted the role of MCAS but also highlighted airline and pilot errors. Max jets have been grounded around the world for over a year and a half. The FAA cleared the plane to fly again in late 2020 after Boeing made changes to MCAS.

Comments are closed.