A former Boeing chief technical pilot was indicted on Thursday for misleading federal aviation officials about the Max 737 jet, a plane later involved in two crashes that killed more than 340.
Mark A. Forkner, 49, has been indicted by a federal grand jury with fraud and wire fraud, the Justice Department has said.
Forkner is accused of misleading the Federal Aviation Administration, which was evaluating the new jet, particularly with regard to its Maneuver Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.
“In an attempt to save money for Boeing, Forkner reportedly withheld critical information from regulators,” Chad E. Meacham, acting US attorney for the North Texas District, said in a statement.
Two of the 737 Max went on to crash – Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia in 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in Ethiopia in 2019. More than 340 people were killed in total. The Max jets have been grounded in the United States and around the world.
According to the indictment, the FAA had been informed that the MCAS would operate at high speed.
Forkner later learned he was operating at a lower speed, similar to takeoff and landing, but withheld that information from the FAA, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors said the deception meant an FAA document made no reference to the system, as did aircraft manuals and pilot training materials. The change to MCAS was found after the fatal crashes.
Federal court files online did not appear to show the Forkner case or lawyer Thursday night. A lawyer who allegedly represented him did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Boeing declined to comment.
Boeing was charged with criminal charges and admitted that two of its technical flight pilots misled the FAA about the flight system. The company agreed in January to pay $ 2.5 billion to settle the criminal case.
Forkner has been charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and four counts of wire fraud. Aircraft-related fraud counts each carry 20 years in prison. He is scheduled to appear in federal court in Texas on Friday.
The 737 Max was recertified and the first U.S. commercial flight took place in December 2020.