US grand jury indicts ex-Boeing 737 MAX pilot


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New York (AFP)

A U.S. federal grand jury on Thursday indicted a former chief Boeing test pilot of misleading aviation regulators during the certification process for the 737 MAX, which was involved in two fatal crashes.

Mark Forkner, 49, was the primary contact between the aviation giant and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on how pilots should be trained to fly planes.

Forkner “provided the agency with materially false, inaccurate and incomplete information on a new part of the flight controls of the Boeing 737 MAX’s flight management system,” called the Maneuver Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was blamed for the 2018 and 2019 accidents, the Justice Department said in a statement.

According to court documents, Forkner discovered in 2016 information about a major change to MCAS that was supposed to prevent blocking, but deliberately chose not to share details with the FAA.

As a result, the FAA has not included a reference to MCAS in a critical document or, in turn, in pilot training manuals.

Forkner is also accused of plotting against Boeing customers who bought 737 MAX jets with withholding critical information.

According to documents released in early 2020, he bragged about being able to trick his FAA contacts into obtaining certification for the MCAS.

The 737 MAX was officially certified in March 2017, but was grounded around the world for 20 months following two crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 that left a total of 346 dead.

In both cases, the MCAS had gone mad based on erroneous information transmitted by one of the aircraft’s two sensors.

The MAX was cleared to fly again at the end of 2020, after the MCAS software was changed.

Boeing has admitted responsibility for deceiving regulators and has agreed to pay more than $ 2.5 billion to settle the lawsuits.

Forkner was formally indicted Thursday by a Texas grand jury with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts and four counts of wire fraud.

If found guilty, he faces up to 100 years in prison.

“Forkner allegedly withheld critical information from regulators,” Texas Federal Attorney Chad Meacham said.

“The Justice Department will not tolerate fraud – especially in industries where the stakes are so high.”

Boeing did not respond to an AFP request for comment.

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