In a significant development, a former chief technical pilot at Boeing Co has been charged with fraud for deceiving federal regulators evaluating the Boeing 737 MAX airplane; in a statement the Justice Department said, the former Boeing employee has also been charged for hindering the ability to protect airline passengers and leaving “pilots in the lurch”.
“Mark Forkner, 49, was indicted by a grand jury in Texas on six counts of scheming to defraud Boeing’s U.S.-based airline customers to obtain tens of millions of dollars for Boeing,” said the government.
Boeing declined comment.
Forkner’s lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comments.
According to the indictment, in 2017, in the run-up to the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to approve the 737 MAX, Forkner provided the FAA Aircraft Evaluation Group with “materially false, inaccurate, and incomplete information” about a new part of the flight controls for the Boeing 737 MAX, called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).
The MCAS, a software feature designed to automatically push the airplane’s nose down in certain conditions, has been linked to two fatal crashes of the 737 MAX that resulted in the death of 346 people and led to the FAA’s grounding the jet for 19 months.
“In an attempt to save Boeing money, Forkner allegedly withheld critical information from regulators,” said Chad Meacham, the acting U.S. attorney for Northern Texas. “His callous choice to mislead the FAA hampered the agency’s ability to protect the flying public and left pilots in the lurch, lacking information about certain 737 MAX flight controls.”
The FAA declined comment.
Earlier this year in January, Boeing agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion in fines and compensation after reaching a deferred agreement with the U.S. Justice Department over the MAX crashes, which has so far cost Boeing more than $20 billion.
That agreement faulted Boeing’s conduct and held the US airplane maker “accountable for its employees’ criminal misconduct.”
In January, court documents reveal that Boeing had admitted in deceiving the FAA about the MCAS through two former employees.
Prosecutors have noted that a key FAA document lacked any reference to the MCAS, and as a result airplane manuals and pilot-training materials for U.S.-based airlines also lacked any reference.
Forkner has been charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and four counts of wire fraud.
He is expected to make his initial court appearance later today at Fort Worth, Texas.
Categories: HR & Organization, Regulations & Legal, Strategy
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