Former Boeing 737 MAX pilot indicted for fraud

Oct 14, 2021, 5:06 PM
737 MAX, Boeing...
A Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplanes in Renton. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

A federal grand jury has indicted a former Boeing 737 MAX Chief Technical Pilot, charging him with deceiving the Federal Aviation Administration.

Mark Forkner, 49, formerly of Washington state, is accused of withholding information about the plane’s automated flight control system during the FAA’s initial evaluation and certification of Boeing’s 737 MAX. The Department of Justice says because of his false and incomplete information about the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), an important document published by the FAA lacked reference to the system.

As a result, Boeing’s customers did not have significant information while finalizing plans to pay the company millions of dollars for the construction and delivery of 737 MAX airplanes.

“He deprived airlines and pilots from knowing crucial information about an important part of the airplane’s flight controls,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr., of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

“Forkner allegedly withheld crucial information about the Boeing 737 MAX and deceived the FAA, showing blatant disregard for his responsibilities and the safety of airline customers and crews,” said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI. “The FBI will continue to hold individuals like Forkner accountable for their fraudulent acts which undermine public safety.”

Aviation Analyst Richard Aboulafia told KIRO Radio there’s more to the situation that needs to be looked into.

“Is it possible that people lied? Sure. What were the conditions and circumstances and overall management conditions that led to this situation?,” Aboulafia asked. “There’s so much more, I think.”

Two Boeing 737 MAX airplanes crashed — one in October 2018 near Jakarta, Indonesia, and another in March 2019 near Ejere, Ethiopia — killing hundreds of passengers. Those two tragedies prompted the grounding of 737 MAX airplanes across the United States.

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The DOJ says, if he’s convicted, Forkner faces up to 20 years in prison on each count of wire fraud and 10 years in prison on each count of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce. In total, that’s 100 years in prison.

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Former Boeing 737 MAX pilot indicted for fraud