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Report: Texts indicate Boeing knew about 737 MAX problems in 2016

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New information about the 737 MAX has been uncovered that will extend the controversy surrounding the grounded Boeing airplane model.

Boeing 737 MAX crisis could have ‘huge consequences for future of flying’

Reuters reports that it discovered records of text messages between two Boeing pilots in 2016. The messages “suggest the airplane maker may have misled” the FAA about a safety system on the 737 MAX. FAA  Administrator Steve Dickson is now demanding that Boeing, and its CEO Dennis Muilenburg, explain the messages.

The pilots reportedly questioned the MCAS system — the system that has been blamed for two fatal MAX crashes within a year. Those crashes led to the model being grounded since March.

At one point in the text messages between the two pilots, Mark Forkner commented on the test simulations of the 737 MAX: “MCAS is now active down to M.2 It’s running rampant in the sim on me at least that’s what Vince thinks is happening.”

Forkner says that the “plane is trimming itself like crazy.” He also remarks “so I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly).” Pilot Patrik Gustavsson responds: “It wasn’t a lie, no one told us that was the case.” The two also comment that the program was under a lot of pressure.

In response to the news, Boeing released the following statement:

Over the past several months, Boeing has been voluntarily cooperating with the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s investigation into the 737 MAX. As part of that cooperation, today we brought to the Committee’s attention a document containing statements by a former Boeing employee. We will continue to cooperate with the Committee as it continues its investigation. And we will continue to follow the direction of the FAA and other global regulators, as we work to safely return the 737 MAX to service.

Reuters further reports that Boeing has told the FAA about the internal messages, stating that the company learned about them months ago. The Justice Department is also aware of the messages.  The Seattle Times reports that Forkner has recently invoked his Fifth Amendment right when he was asked to turn over documents subpoenaed by the Justice Department.

Even so, Boeing maintained that the text messages don’t indicate it had prior knowledge of the 737 MAX’s issues, and that the “comments reflected a reaction to a simulator program that was not functioning properly.”

The news comes shortly after the head of the Federal Aviation Administration visited Renton to test fixes to Boeing’s grounded 737 MAX, and after the aerospace company shifted around its leadership by dropping its chairman. Dennis Muilenburg will longer serve as Boeing’s chairman. The company’s board of directors decided to separate the chairman role from the CEO position.

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