a Boeing The pilot involved in the test of the 737 MAX jetliner was indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday of defrauding safety regulators evaluating the aircraft, which was later involved in two fatal crashes.
The indictment accused Mark A. Forkner of providing false and incomplete information to the Federal Aviation Administration about an automated flight-control system that played a role in Accidents in which 346 people died.
Prosecutors said that because of Forkner’s “alleged deception,” the system was not mentioned in key FAA documents, pilot manuals or pilot-training materials supplied to airlines.
The flight-control system automatically pushed the nose down of the Max jets that crashed in Indonesia in 2018 and in Ethiopia in 2019. The pilots unsuccessfully attempted to regain control, but both planes failed minutes after takeoff.
Most pilots were unaware of this system, called the maneuver characteristic enhancement system, until after the first crash.
Forkner, 49, was charged with two counts of aircraft parts fraud and four counts of wire fraud in interstate commerce. Federal prosecutors said he is expected to appear for the first time in court in Fort Worth, Texas, on Friday. If convicted on all counts, he could face up to 100 years in prison.
Boeing designed the Max as a more fuel-efficient version of the venerable 737 that could compete with aircraft developed by the company’s European rival Airbus. The flight-control system was to fly the Max as in previous 737s, despite the tendency to tilt the nose upward in some circumstances.
Congressional investigators have suggested that Forkner and Boeing reduced the power of the system to avoid a requirement that pilots undergo extensive and costly retraining, which would increase the cost of airlines to operate the aircraft.
Chad Meacham, US Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said Forkner had tried to save Boeing money by withholding “critical information” from regulators.
Meacham said in a statement, “His drastic choice to mislead the FAA hindered the agency’s ability to protect the flying public and left pilots in the lurch, a lack of information about some 737 MAX flight controls.” “
Chicago-based Boeing agrees to $2.5bn settlement To end the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the company’s actions. Boeing said in the deal last year that employees had misled regulators about the safety of the Max. The agreement included fines, money for the airlines that bought the plane, and compensation for the families of passengers killed in the crashes.
The families of dozens of passengers are suing Boeing in federal court in Chicago.