A US grand jury has indicted a former Boeing 737 MAX pilot.
A former Boeing chief test pilot was accused on Thursday by a federal grand jury in the United States with deceiving aviation regulators during the certification process for the 737 MAX, which was involved in two tragic disasters.
Mark Forkner, 49, was the main point of contact between the aviation behemoth and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about pilot training.
According to the Justice Department, Forkner “provided the agency with materially false, inaccurate, and incomplete information about a new part of the flight controls for the Boeing 737 MAX,” called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was blamed for the 2018 and 2019 crashes.
According to court records, Forkner discovered information on a critical change made to the MCAS in 2016 that was designed to avoid stalling, but chose not to tell the FAA about it.
As a result, the FAA did not include a mention to the MCAS in a key document or, as a result, in pilot instruction manuals.
Forkner is also accused of withholding vital information from Boeing customers who purchased 737 MAX planes.
He claimed, according to documents disclosed in early 2020, that he could falsify his FAA contacts in order to secure MCAS certification.
The Boeing 737 MAX was certified in March 2017, but it was grounded for 20 months after two crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 killed a total of 346 people.
In all incidents, the MCAS had gone haywire due to erroneous data supplied by one of the plane’s two sensors.
After the MCAS software was changed, the MAX was allowed to fly again at the end of 2020.
Boeing has admitted to deceiving authorities and agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion to settle claims.
A grand jury in Texas accused Forkner on two counts of fraud involving aviation parts and four counts of wire fraud on Thursday.
He could face a sentence of up to 100 years in jail if convicted.
“Forkner is accused of withholding crucial information from regulators,” said Chad Meacham, a federal prosecutor in Texas.
“Fraud will not be tolerated by the Department of Justice, especially in businesses where the stakes are so high.”
An AFP request for comment was not answered by Boeing.