Mark A. Forkner was indicted for providing false and incomplete information to the Federal Aviation Administration about an automated flight control system that was involved in the deaths of 346 people.
Prosecutors claimed that Forkner's deception caused the system to be omitted from training materials and pilot manuals.
Forkner's attorney did not respond to our request for comment immediately. Boeing and the FAA declined comment.
Forkner, 49 was charged with two counts fraud involving parts of aircraft in interstate commerce as well as four counts of wire fraud. Federal prosecutors stated that Forkner will make his first court appearance on Friday in Fort Worth. He could be sentenced to up to 100 years imprisonment if he is convicted of all charges.
Indictment alleges that he concealed information about a flight control system that was activated incorrectly and pushed down Max jets that crashed in Indonesia in 2018 and Ethiopia in 2019. Both planes took off and went into nosedives within minutes.
Forkner was Boeing’s chief technical pilot for the Max program. Prosecutors claimed that Forkner was the chief technical pilot for the Max program. However, he learned of an important change to Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System's flight-control system in 2016 but withheld the FAA information. This led to the FAA deleting MCAS reference from a technical report. It also didn't appear on pilot manuals. MCAS was not something most pilots knew about until the first crash.
Prosecutors claimed that Forkner undervalued the system's power to avoid the requirement that pilots go through expensive and extensive retraining. This would raise training costs for airlines. Additional training would have increased the cost of each plane by $1 million, according to congressional investigators.
In 2016, Forkner stated to another Boeing employee that MCAS was "egregious and running rampant" during a test in a flight simulator. However, he did not tell the FAA.
Forkner's message, which was made public in 2019, stated that "So I basically lied (unknowingly) to the regulators."
Forkner, who resides in Fort Worth, joined Southwest Airlines shortly after leaving Boeing. However, he left the airline around a year ago.
Boeing, based in Chicago, agreed to a $2.5 Billion settlement to end an investigation by the Justice Department into its actions. If the January 2020 settlement is followed, the government will drop a criminal conspiracy charge against Boeing after three-years. There was a $243.6million fine and nearly $1.8billion in penalties for the airlines that purchased the plane. The settlement also included $500 million to pay the families of those who died.
Dozens upon dozens of passenger families are suing Boeing in Chicago federal court.
The role of MCAS was highlighted in crash investigations, but mistakes were also made by pilots and airlines. Max jets were grounded around the world for over a year and half. After Boeing made some changes to MCAS, the FAA granted permission for the plane to fly again in late 2013.