USA: Ex-Boeing test pilot indicted.  He faces 20 years in prison

In a statement released Thursday evening, North Texas District Attorney Chad Meacham said Mark Forkner, 49, was deceiving the FAA into saving Boeing money.

“His ruthless choice to deceive the FAA was impeding the agency’s ability to protect passengers and leaving pilots on the ice without any information about certain elements of the 737 Max’s flight control,” the attorney general said.

It’s about Forkner withholding information from regulators about the MCAS flight control system. According to the attorney general’s office, the pilot who headed the technical team of the 737 Max did not inform the agency about the detected changes in the operation of the system, so they were not included in the pilots’ instructions. This contributed to the disasters of Lion Air 610 flights in Indonesia and Ethiopian Airlines 302 in Ethiopia, killing a total of 346 people. The result was a nearly two-year outage for 737 Max flights.

If Forkner does his duty, pilots using the machines will have to undergo additional training in the simulator, which will increase the cost of the 737 Max and reduce the competitiveness of Boeing’s bid to Airbus.

Forkner has been charged with six counts of fraud, the most serious of which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Evidence collected by the attorney general’s office includes several transcripts in which the man openly declared that he would deceive regulators and admitted that he lied to the FAA.

The former Boeing pilot is the first person to hear the allegations about the scandal. In early 2021, the US company paid more than $2.5 billion to families of disaster victims as part of a settlement with the Attorney General’s Office, which accused the company of fraud and deceiving regulators.

According to the House of Representatives investigative report, it is not only the company that is responsible for the situation, but also “significantly inadequate oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration.” Congress passed a law to tighten this oversight in 2020.

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