(New York) US justice Thursday indicted a former Boeing test pilot, accused of misleading the US aviation regulator during the certification process for the 737 Max jet, two of which were crushed killing 346 people.
Mark Forkner, 49, “provided the agency with false, inaccurate and incomplete information about a new part of the Boeing 737 Max’s flight control system,” MCAS justified the Department of Justice in a statement.
So the regulator, the FAA, did not claim a reference in MCAS pilot training, a program that is supposed to prevent the aircraft from entering the front of the aircraft and participating in the two accidents.
Boeing has already admitted responsibility for manipulating the authorities and agreed in January to pay more than $2.5 billion to settle some lawsuits. Then the airline giant admitted that two of its employees had misled the FAA.
Mr. Forkner is the first person to be personally prosecuted in this case.
According to prosecution documents, in 2016 the official discovered an important change made to MCAS.
In a letter to a colleague revealed in 2019, he specifically noted that the software made the plane difficult to fly in a simulator.
But he deliberately chose not to share this information with the FAA, which resulted in the regulator not requiring specific training for pilots and not including a reference to MCAS in the training documents.
“It basically means that I lied to the regulators,” Mr Forkner wrote to his colleague at the time.
The official also boasted of his ability to trick his FAA interlocutors into obtaining certification for the MCAS anti-stall system.
The 737 Max was officially approved in March 2017 and made its first commercial flight a few weeks later.
In October 2018, a Lion Air plane crashed into the sea shortly after takeoff, killing all 189 people on board.
In March 2019, the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max killed 157 people.
During both incidents, the flight control program, MCAS, was transmitted based on false information sent by one of the aircraft’s probes.
Only in October 2018, after the first crash, did the FAA learn “essential details” about MCAS.
All 737 Max aircraft were grounded in March 2019 before being allowed to fly again in the US at the end of 2020, once the program was changed.
Forkner, 49, was formally indicted by a Texas grand jury on two counts of aircraft parts fraud and four counts of electronic communications fraud.
If found guilty, he could theoretically face up to 100 years in prison.
“Mr. Forkner withheld critical information from the regulator in an effort to provide money to Boeing,” Texas federal prosecutor Chad Meacham said in the statement.
“The Department of Justice cannot tolerate such fraud, especially in a sector where the stakes are high,” he added.
Asked by AFP, Boeing declined to comment.
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