A former Boeing pilot has been charged with deceiving US aviation regulators in the first prosecution related to two fatal 737 MAX accidents that plunged the aviation titan into crisis.
Mark Forker, a former chief technical pilot for the company, was indicted on Thursday on charges that he deceived the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Evaluation Group during the agency’s evaluation and certification of the MAX, the US Justice Department said in a statement.
He’s accused of providing the FAA with false, inaccurate and incomplete information about a new part of the flight controls for the MAX.
Because of his alleged actions, airplane manuals and pilot-training materials for US airlines didn’t have any reference to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, the software system that was later linked to both tragedies.
“In an attempt to save Boeing money, Forkner allegedly withheld critical information from regulators,” Chad E. Meacham, the Acting US Attorney in Dallas, said in a statement. “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.”
Forkner bragged of using ‘Jedi mind tricks’ on regulators and complained that the MAX was ‘designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys’.
The FAA and Boeing declined to comment. Attorneys for Forkner couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The case is the culmination of a criminal investigation that began in late 2018 after the first of two crashes that combined killed 346 people and spurred the longest grounding of a commercial jetliner in US aviation history. The revelations from accident reports have badly dented Boeing’s reputation and raised questions about how a potentially aggressive new feature was overlooked by regulators and omitted from pilot manuals.
As chief technical pilot for Boeing, Forkner oversaw the drafting of pilot training materials before the MAX jetliner was certified by US regulators in 2017. The Chicago-based planemaker entered into a $US2.5 billion ($3.4 billion) agreement earlier this year to settle a criminal charge that it misled the FAA.